Monday, December 4, 2017

Profiling Utahns with Disabilities

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

“Know me for my abilities, not my disability.” ― Robert M. Hensel

In October 2016, the Utah Department of Workforce Services welcomed the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) under its umbrella of public services. USOR has been in the business of assisting Utahns with disabilities for decades. Workers help those with disabilities find meaningful employment, participate in the community and improve daily life. In addition, Workforce Services helps Utah businesses by connecting them with job-ready applicants, offering training and assistance in recruiting, hiring and maintaining workers with disabilities. Businesses can also receive information on disability issues and workplace accommodations.

What information regarding Utahns with disabilities is available? As is often the case, the American Community Survey (ACS) offers a wealth of demographic data for counties. Using the 2011-2015 ACS averages, Workforce Services has prepared a data visualization detailing the demographics of people with disabilities for Utah’s counties. Five-year averages allow the publication and comparison of data for small counties. This post includes an abbreviated version of the visualization; the full version can be found here. As always, directions in the final tab outline how to download the information.

Defining Disability


The ACS (conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau) tackles the difficult task of gathering data on the complex concept of disability with a set of six short questions. ACS seeks to capture six aspects of disability, which can then be used to identify populations with specific disability types.

Hearing — deaf or serious hearing difficulty
Vision — blind or serious vision difficulty
Cognitive — serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Ambulatory — serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs
Self-care — difficulty dressing or bathing • Independent living — difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping due to a physical, mental or emotional condition

Respondents are considered to have a disability if they have difficulty with any of the types listed above. For children under five years old, hearing and vision difficulty are used to determine disability status.

Survey Says…


What does the survey show? In Utah, roughly 270,000 individuals have a serious disability — 9.3 percent of the total population. That’s substantially lower than the United States share of 12.4 percent. This spread in the share of persons with disabilities results primarily from the different age structures of Utah and the nation. Utah remains the youngest state in the country, and older individuals are most likely to experience a disability.

In both Utah (25 percent) and the United States (27 percent), persons with an ambulatory disability make up the highest percentage of those with disabilities. Next in line in both areas are those with a cognitive disability (22 and 20 percent respectively). Nationally, individuals with an independent living disability make up a slightly larger share than in Utah. In addition, individuals with a hearing disability also comprise a significant share of the total population with a disability in the state and nation.

Age Counts


When it comes to experiencing a disability, age counts. Until age 34, only a small percentage of Utahns experience a disability — 5 percent or less. Even up to age 64, only one in 10 manifests a disability. However, nearly one-fourth of seniors 64 to 74 years of age indicate they experience a disability, while half of persons 75 and older report a disability. U.S. figures are relatively similar.

Gender Gap


In the United States, women (12.6 percent) are slightly more likely to report a disability than men (12.2 percent). In Utah, that relationship is reversed. Women (9.2 percent) are slightly less likely to have a serious disability than their male counterparts (9.5 percent).

There’s more…


The following bullets highlight a few other points from the profile.

• Piute County shows the highest share of population with a disability (18 percent). The population of Piute County is also the oldest county in Utah. The lowest share of population with a disability can be found in Summit County.

• Not surprisingly, in general, counties with older populations also have higher share of people reporting disabilities.

• While individuals aged 75-plus are the most likely to show a disability, persons between the ages of 35 to 64 years, make up a larger share of the population of individuals with disabilities (38 percent). Those 75 and older comprise 22 percent. Of course, the 35-to-64 age population also comprises the largest portion of the total population (33 percent).

• In Kane County, 58 percent of men 65 and older report a serious disability — the highest in the state. On the female side, San Juan County shows the highest share of female population over 65 years with a disability (52 percent).

• In Utah, women make up a smaller or commensurate share of persons with a disability than men until 75 years of age. Of course, due to longer life spans, females also make up a larger share of the 75-plus population.

• In Utah, San Juan County shows the highest population share of women with a disability (17 percent), while Kane County displays the highest share of men with a disability (20 percent). Summit, Utah, Morgan and Wasatch counties consistently show low shares of the population with disabilities, regardless of gender.

• More than half of individuals with a disability between the ages of 18 and 64 are not in the labor force. This group comprises 20 percent of all similarly-aged individuals that are not in the labor force.

• In contrast, people with disabilities make up only 5 percent of those employed. Those with a disability are also much more likely to be unemployed (12 percent of total unemployed).

• Workers with a disability are even less likely to work full-time, year-round. They comprise just 4 percent of this category.

• Almost equal numbers of persons with a disability work year-round, full-time and less than year-round, full-time.

• In Box Elder County, workers with a disability appear to make up a disproportionate share of the unemployed — 27 percent. On the other hand, workers with a disability comprise 11 percent of the employed in San Juan County, far higher than the statewide average of 5.0 percent.

• In Utah, the median wage of workers with a disability measures only 72 percent of those without a disability. Male workers with a disability make only 70 percent of their peer’s wage. Workers with a disability are less likely to work year-round, full-time, but this would account for only a small share of the wage gap.

• Workers with a disability experience a smaller-than-average wage gap in Kane, Juab, Tooele, Millard and Garfield counties. Here, the median wage of workers with a disability measures 85 percent or higher of the wage of comparable workers without a disability.

• Individuals with a disability are far less likely to have poverty-level incomes if they work. Only 10 percent of the employed with a disability are below the poverty line compared to 29 percent of those who are not in the labor force.

• Utah veterans are far more likely to report a disability than nonveterans. Nearly 30 percent of veterans report a disability compared to 11 percent of nonveterans. Utah is home to more than 12,000 younger veterans under the age of 64 with a disability, roughly 18 percent of veterans in this age group.

• The non-Hispanic/Latino white population, a majority of Utahns, is noticeably more likely to report a disability (10 percent), than the Hispanic/Latino population (6 percent).

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Economic Hurdles in Rural Utah

by Mark Knold

Utah is a geographically large state. Based on total area, it is the 13th largest state, implying there is room to spread out. Despite all this space, Utah’s population distribution is quite concentrated. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Utah is the nation’s 9th most urbanized state. This dichotomy has shaped a state with two economic profiles — one urban, one rural. It can be challenging for a state dominated and prospering within the urban to extend its economic bounty to the betterment of the rural.

What is rural? It depends upon one’s objective behind the question. Most define rural by a visual scan of the landscape. A lot of open land and not many people — rural. Yet economically, the view can be different. An area may look rural, but if the economic vitality of its populace is strongly integrated with a nearby urban area, then this creates a different perspective. The latter is a preference of the federal government — an entity that often makes allocation or distribution decisions based upon economic factors.


No matter how one technically defines rural, the Governor’s Office recognizes a recent dichotomy in Utah’s economic prosperity. Since the Great Recession, Utah has had compelling economic success. Yet, most of this is concentrated in Utah’s urban centers. Portions of Utah’s rural communities are not seeing matching levels of success. Utah’s Lt. Governor recently observed, “Not all of Utah’s communities are full participants in this economic success. Many counties off the Wasatch Front are experiencing challenges.”

In response to this economic disparity, the Governor’s Office has launched the 25k Jobs initiative — an effort for businesses to create 25,000 new jobs in 25 Utah counties by 2020. With this spotlight on rural Utah’s economics, let’s take a look at some of these rural challenges.

To most, jobs deliver their income and means for living sustenance. Therefore, employment, and peripheral variables associated with employment, becomes the strongest proxy for measuring the Utah economy’s health. We will look at Utah’s counties through the lens of employment, unemployment, the labor force and how the industry structure speaks to the underlying performance of these variables.

A profile of job growth becomes a starting point. Economic performance needs to be viewed with a somewhat long lens. The Governor’s 25k Jobs initiative was not born from a short-term disorder, but instead is recognition of weak longer-term fundamentals. To illustrate this perspective, one needs to backdrop the short-term mechanics against the longer-term dynamics.

The County Job Profile chart is an intersection of the short-term trend with the moderate-term. Each county is a bubble, and the bubble size reflects job counts. The chart is divided into four quadrants. The quadrants tell the story of the intersection of the short and moderate-term trends (growth or contraction) and the general health of the county’s economy.


There are two axes of measure. First, the vertical axis represents the short-term. It is the percentage of county job change between 2015 and 2016. Above the horizontal axis is growth — below is contraction.

Second, the horizontal axis measures the moderate-term. It is the percentage of job change over the past five years (2011-2016). To the right of the vertical axis is growth — to the left is contraction. Where a bubble lies is the intersection of the short and the moderate term.

To illustrate, find Beaver County on the chart. Beaver aligns with around -4.0 percent on the vertical axis, and 8.0 percent on the horizontal axis. This says that over the past five years, Beaver County’s job count has grown by 8.0 percent, but over the past year it has contracted by around 4.0 percent. This implies that Beaver County’s economy may be slipping a bit. A one-year view would imply a problem. A longer-term view places this short-term setback against a broader perspective of overall prosperity.

The quadrant of concern is the Contracting quadrant. These economies have contracted over both the most recent year and the past five years. No matter how one wants to define rural as outlined above, all of these contracting counties identify as rural.

In-county jobs alone are not the complete picture. For example, a large percentage of Morgan County’s residents commute to Weber or Davis counties for work. If jobs are not being germinated in Morgan County, the county and its population can still prosper from its ties with the urban area.

An additional way to look at the economy is through the lens of the labor force. The labor force consists of those 16-years and older who are either working or looking for work. It is based upon where people live, not where they work. A worker living in Morgan County will be represented in Morgan County on the following chart (County Labor Force Change); yet, if they work in Weber County, their job is represented in Weber County on the prior chart. Adding this perspective helps to round out a county’s profile.

The structure of the County Labor Force Change graphic is the same as the prior chart. The area of vibrancy is the upper-right quadrant where the labor force is increasing. The quadrant of labor force contraction is the lower left. A decline in the labor force occurs when people become discouraged and leave the labor force — yet stay in the county, or when people leave the county altogether. Either way, a decline in the labor force signals a fundamental negative in the economic trend.

Depending upon the variables measured, a gain in one and a decline in another can both be positive. Job growth and an unemployment decline are both positive. To associate the positive with low unemployment, the quadrant message on the Unemployment Rate chart has been transposed.

Every month an unemployment rate is calculated for Utah and each of its counties. A county’s unemployment rate can be measured against the Utah statewide average unemployment rate. In the following graphic, county rates are mathematically compared against the statewide rate (seasonally adjusted), recorded and then summed across time.

For example, if a county’s unemployment rate is 5.5 percent and the statewide rate is 4.0 percent, then that county’s difference for that month is 1.5. If a county’s rate were to be 3.5 percent against the statewide rate of 4.0 percent, then the difference is -0.5. These monthly differences are tallied and summed. A high score speaks to a consistent and persistent unemployment rate above the statewide average. In other words, these are counties with a continuous environment of high unemployment.

The horizontal axis is a measure since 2000 and the vertical axis a measure since the beginning of the Great Recession (2008). The axis intersection is not at zero to isolate the “concern area” within the upper right quadrant. The statewide average is consistently close to the Salt Lake County average, so a sizeable number of counties will have sums slightly above the statewide average; yet, this doesn’t imply an unemployment problem. But the non-zero intersection is utilized to emphasize the counties that do have an outstanding unemployment disparity.

Across these various charts, a common group of rural counties emerge in the weak quadrant. These include Carbon, Emery, Garfield, Piute and San Juan counties; with Duchesne and Uintah hanging on the edge. There is a common theme that surrounds this grouping and it centers upon low economic diversity.

An economy’s ability to be consistently positive has a strong foundation in a diverse mix of industrial employment. Think of it in terms of “not putting all your eggs in one basket.” Economic diversity is spreading jobs across many baskets. Diversity is desirable because the overall economy is not dominantly influenced by one or a handful of industries whose poor performance weighs upon the whole.

A Hachman Index is an evaluation tool measuring to what degree an economy may or may not have all its eggs in one basket. In the Hachman Index, a measure of 1.0 means your eggs are well distributed across many industries. Conversely, numbers approaching zero point to a high concentration in one or a handful of industries.


Many of the counties that score low on the previous charts are the same ones on the lowest tier of the following Hachman Index chart. This chart represents the placement of economic diversity upon employment change of the past five years. A county will be placed high or low (vertical axis) on the chart depending upon its Hachman Index score. It will align right or left (horizontal axis) depending upon its five-year employment change. Metropolitan counties have higher economic diversity than rural counties — placing them higher on the chart. They are also further to the right on the chart, showing stronger employment growth. There can be individual exceptions, but the general theme is that lack of economic diversity is a foundational impediment to economic viability. Industrial diversity, though difficult to artificially induce, is a desired remedy to counter sluggish economic performance.

Lack of diversity does not mandate a poor economy. A reproduction of this chart five years ago would have placed Uintah and Duchesne counties still low on the chart, but their five-year growth rates would have been off the chart, needing arrows to point out beyond the chosen 40 percent horizontal axis limit.

Those economies are dominated by energy production. When energy prices are high, their economies can soar. When energy falters, they often do likewise. They are striking examples of economic outcome being determined by a dominant industry.

In summary, there is a dichotomy within the Utah economy between urban and rural. The urban economies are diverse and, therefore, more economically balanced; while many rural economies are not. With some rural counties the economic distinction is not a wide divide; but in the rural counties where the divide is pronounced, the underlying theme is often a low level of economic performance.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Retail Trade in Utah:
How Online Sales are Reshaping the Industry and Its Workforce.

Consumer spending makes up around 68 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Consumer spending is individuals and families purchasing groceries, clothing, recreation, stocks, insurance, education and much more. The transactions cover a broad swath of economic activity.

Much of the nation’s consumer spending is captured via retail trade. A useful retail trade definition is “the re-sale (sale without transformation) of new and used goods to the general public, for personal or household consumption or utilization.” Not all consumer spending is captured through retail trade transactions, but a large share is.

Broad-category examples of retail trade sectors are motor vehicle sales, furniture stores, electronic stores, building material stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, clothing stores and department stores, among others.

Then there is the relatively new and emerging part of the retail trade sphere — nonstore retailers. These are establishments that sell products on the internet. Examples include Amazon, Zappos, Overstock.com, or eBay. These types of retailers have grown rapidly in the past 15 years and their presence is reshaping the retail trade landscape.

Whereas in the past nearly all retail transactions were done through traditional brick-and-mortar stores, now a significant and growing segment is diverted to internet sales. The consumer shops online and FedEx (or like) delivers the product. One can see that the number of brick-and-mortar stores and the level of local sales across the country are being endangered by this economic evolution.

The brick-and-mortar reduction is beginning to show its economic presence in the United States employment numbers. While the U.S. economy is finally expanding at a healthy pace this side of the Great Recession, one of the few industries not rising with this tide is retail trade. While overall retail sales are increasing, employment is not.

Traditionally, as a population increases, retail trade employment grows simultaneously, since population growth and consumer spending volume is an integrated dynamic. If studied deeply, a certain ratio of retail trade employment growth spawned from population growth would emerge. Before the internet, the vast majority of all consumer sales occurred in the immediate community or region. But now, the internet is diverting these sales away from the local community — and with internet sales growing, its market share will increase.

We do not yet know how much brick-and-mortar erosion will eventually occur. And will such a phenomenon hit some areas more than others (e.g., urban vs. rural, or local vs. tourist spending)? These are touch points that economist will be watching as this internet sales phenomenon continues to grow within the national and Utah economies.

In light of this change, in this quarter’s Local Insights we are profiling retail trade employment throughout Utah’s local regions. This can offer a profile of where retail trade is now in a local economy, and possibly how much of the sector could become vulnerable to the internet-sales phenomenon.

A deeper look at each region can be found via the tabs at the top of the page.

Check Out the Viz
If you are interested in the details, the data visualization below breaks out the various retail categories and allows you to compare sales (as a share of total taxable sales) and employment (as a share of total nonfarm employment) in each category (by county) over time. The relative changes in taxable sales compared to employment are telling in relation to some of the structural changes being driven by online sales, although direct links are difficult to establish as there are many other confounding factors. The tables at the bottom give the actual sales and employment levels, summed-up for whatever you have selected in the county and retail category filters.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Utah's Economic Diversity and Jobs in 2016

By Cory Stahle, Regional Economist


Analysis upon preliminary employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Utah finished 2016 with the sixth most industrially-diverse economy in the nation. While there are several ways to measure an economy’s industrial diversity, this analysis applied a statistical measure called the Hachman Index upon the annual BLS employment data for each state. For more on the Hachman index visit the following.


In addition to balanced industry employment, Utah also ranked first for job growth in 2016 and tied for third in GDP growth. This means that in 2016, Utah landed in the top 10 for all three indicators. The only other state to do this was Georgia.

The visualization below shows the Hachman Index and year-over employment and GDP changes by state for the past 15 years. Some of the highlights include:


  • Utah’s diversity index has ranked in the top 10 every year between 2002 and 2016.
  • Utah ranked first for year-over job growth in 2016 for the second consecutive year.
  •  In addition to the top spot last year, Utah posted top 10 employment growth in 10 of the last 15 years, with nine of those years in the top 5.
  • GDP growth in Utah has measured in the top 10 for the last four years.