Monday, August 1, 2016

The Infrastructure Labor Market

By Mark Knold, Supervising Economist

The labor force is made up of people. People vary in every conceivable way. One person is artistic while another can only draw stick people. One person might be able to disassemble and reassemble a car engine while another might not know what an alternator is. We are different. We have different aptitudes and abilities.

Parallel to this variability, jobs are different. High levels of education do make it possible to work in high-skill occupations that return high incomes. But not everyone is cut out for higher education or has the means to obtain higher education. Therefore, they might end up in “lesser” or “unimportant” jobs.

But is that accurate? Are their job options inferior and unimportant? A recent Brookings Institution report brings to light a segment of the economy that is highly important yet is dependent upon the labor force that may not be built for, have the economic means, or desire to attain a college degree or higher.

Brookings identifies a niche they call the infrastructure economy. As Brookings notes, “Infrastructure helps facilitate the exchange of information, drive production, and deliver resources, spanning multiple sectors of the economy and serving as a foundation to long-term growth.” It goes further to note that “Infrastructure jobs depend on a steady stream of talent to construct, operate, design, and govern the country’s major physical assets.”

Brookings also documents why these infrastructure jobs can appeal to the individual. “Infrastructure occupations also boast competitive wages with relatively low barriers to entry, frequently paying up to 30 percent more to workers with a high school diploma or less compared to those in all other occupations. Plumbers, truck mechanics, and power line installers are among the numerous infrastructure occupations that fall into this category, which tend to emphasize on-the-job training rather than higher levels of formal education.”

Brookings identified 95 occupations that support the infrastructure foundation. Their work was well founded and designed. This intrigued us to develop a profile of said infrastructure configuration for the Utah economy. We could not replicate the Brookings work in terms of finalizing upon infrastructure industries, but we could place our focus instead upon all infrastructure occupations.

Infrastructure occupations do not have to be found in only infrastructure industries. A helicopter pilot, an infrastructure occupation, may fly a medical helicopter for a hospital, even though said hospital is not categorized as an infrastructure industry.

What is important is that there are occupations that Brookings has identified as key occupations that help to keep the economy operating, growing, designed, and governed. And a practical appeal is that many of these jobs offer low barriers to entry while supplying competitive wages.

Across the nation, these occupations number 11.9 million, or 8.8 percent of all occupational employment. In Utah, these jobs number around 121,400, also 8.8 percent of all occupational employment. Again, the appeal of these jobs is not just that they fundamentally support so many other jobs and industries in the economy, but that these jobs don’t require a high level of education or formalized training for entry. Oftentimes these occupations emphasize only on-the-job training. Yet, these jobs pay on average 22 percent higher in Utah than other occupations that are willing to accept only a high school diploma or less.

Utah does have its unique structuring across its different geographic regions, and this will include the possibility of a different profile of the infrastructure economy in each local region. The following links will connect you to profiles by region:

Bear River
Castle Country
Central Utah
Uintah Basin
Wasatch Front North
Wasatch Front South

Monday, May 23, 2016

Most of Utah’s cities and towns grew in 2015

The U.S. Census Bureau releases 2015 population estimates for cities 

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist 

“I come from a small town whose population never changed. Each time a woman got pregnant, someone left town.” Michael Prichard

The U.S. Census Bureau just released 2015 population estimates for cities and towns. In the visualization below, you can check out the estimates for your own Utah hometown. Use the “Cities by County” tab to easily locate a particular township.

While most cities in Utah expanded during 2015, they presented a wide variety of growth experiences.

• The old Geneva Steel Mill site has proved fertile ground for population growth. Vineyard, Utah, which is located on the spot, grew by a whopping 418 percent in just one year. However, Vineyard’s population remains relatively low in the overall scheme of things with about 3,200 residents.

• South Jordan added the largest number of persons (roughly 3,800) of any Utah city or town. South Jordan also ranked fifth in the nation for 2015 population growth (among cities with populations of 50,000 or more).

• The top five population-gaining cities in Utah are all located in southern Salt Lake County or northern Utah County as the metropolitan population continues to spread outward from the large city centers. Fastest-growing larger communities also tended to be located near the Salt Lake/Utah County border.

• Due to the nature of percent changes, several small towns (Ophir, Ballard, Francis, Wallsburg) showed high growth rates although their new-resident counts measured relatively low.

• Census estimates suggest a number of towns lost population in 2015. Every town in Carbon, Emery and Wayne counties showed contraction. In addition, Kanab and Beaver City experienced notable population declines.

• Salt Lake County remains home to five of the 10 largest cities in the state. Utah County accounts for another two in the top 10. St. George is the only city in the top-10 ranking located outside the Wasatch Front.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Utah health insurance coverage is improving

The Census Bureau Releases 2014 Small Area Health Insurance Estimates 

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist 

“Poverty and no health insurance coverage keeps the doctor away — apples have nothing to do with it.” Beryl Dov 

The goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) include expanded health insurance coverage in the United States. Most of the Act’s health insurance expansion provisions went into effect January 1, 2014. The U.S. Census Bureau’s recently-released 2014 Small Area Health Insurance Estimates  provide an initial glimpse of the early outcomes of ACA on health insurance coverage. Keep in mind that health insurance coverage runs the gamut from employer-provided plans to personal insurance to government Medicaid and Medicare coverage. These estimates cover individuals under the age of 65, since those 65 and older are eligible for government-provided health insurance through Medicare.

Has health insurance coverage has expanded in the Beehive State? The percentage of individuals in Utah with health insurance coverage did increase between 2009 and 2014. In 2008, 83.7 percent of the population under age 65 had some sort of health insurance according to the Census Bureau estimates (based on the American Community Survey data). By 2014, coverage had increased by an additional 2.5 percentage points to measure 86.2 percent.

However, while most age groups showed expanding coverage, coverage for persons between 40 and 64 actually declined. In fact, coverage contracted by almost a full percentage point for those 50 to 64 years of age. On the other hand, young people under the age of 19 saw the strongest expansion in coverage.

Gains in the percentage of insured proved particularly strong for African Americans and Latinos. Coverage for black Utahns increased by 5 percentage points while Hispanics experienced a notable 8 percentage-point gain. In contrast, white (not Hispanic) coverage increased by only 1.8 percentage points between 2008 and 2014.

Males (up 2.7 points) were slightly more likely than females (up 2.2 points) to experience an increase in the insured share of the population. Latino males experienced the strongest expansion, the percent of insured rose 9.1 percentage points between 2008 and 2014.

The Census Bureau provides health-insurance categories ranging from at-or-below-138 percent of poverty to at-or-below-400 percent of poverty. Those with the lowest incomes experienced the greatest increase in coverage (up 6.6 points). However, lower-income individuals are still insured at a lower rate than their higher-income peers. For example, only 73.6 percent of those at or below 138 percent of poverty are insured compared to 86.2 percent of the general population.

Counties in the northern part of the state tend to show the highest shares of insured individuals. In 2014, Morgan, Davis, Box Elder, Tooele and Utah counties all showed insured shares of 88 percent or higher. On the opposite end of the scale, many counties in central and southern Utah showed low insured rates. In Piute, San Juan, Washington, Millard and Sanpete counties, 81 percent or less of the population under the age of 65 had health insurance.

While most counties shared in the state’s increasing health insurance coverage, Carbon, Millard, Piute and Summit counties all showed a slight decrease in the share of insured individuals less than 65 years of age. However, the estimated declines are well within the margin of error for these counties, which suggests that coverage might not have declined at all. In general, the largest increases in health insurance coverage occurred in small counties — Daggett, Beaver, Grand, Kane, Morgan and San Juan counties.

Your area's labor market information is "OnTheMap"

The Census Bureau’s online mapping tool provides a wealth of location-specific labor market information 

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

 “If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.” Ashleigh Brilliant

This isn’t your same old blog post about data. Instead of analyzing and sharing data, this post covers how to access an extremely useful “big data” labor market information tool. What is this tool? The U.S. Census Bureau’s OnTheMap web-based mapping and reporting application.

What’s so great about OnTheMap? Typically, we report labor market information at the state and county level. Local-level data is harder to come by. Along with the ability to provide labor market profiles of small and large nonstandard areas, OnTheMap graphically demonstrates where people work and where workers live. Users can define their own geographies and obtain data and maps at the census-block level of detail. This flexibility can quickly provide information for emergency and transportation planning, site location and economic development.

Do you want to understand commuting patterns for a particular area? OnTheMap can generate maps of outflow and inflow. Do you want to know the basic characteristics of workers in your town? OnTheMap has that information. Do you want to identify the employment characteristics along a specific stretch of highway? OnTheMap can deliver that data. Do you want to discern how many workers live within a 50-mile radius of a particular site? OnTheMap delivers.

Where does this data come from? OnTheMap combines federal and state administrative data on workers and employees with Census Bureau census and survey data. Don’t worry. Using state-of-the-art methods, the Census Bureau is committed to protecting the confidentiality of business and personal information.