Southern Utah adding jobs even as jobless claims rise across US

File photo of the Utah Department of Workforce Services office, St. George, Utah, Dec. 7th, 2020 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — As national jobless claims rise, Utah has added 51,000 jobs since June 2019, according to an employment summary released by the Utah Office of Workforce Services on July 16.

File photo by ablokhin/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

That’s an estimated 3.3% increase over the past 24 months, said Utah Department of Workforce Services Chief Economist Mark Knold.

“The summer months have brought a firm awakening to the Utah economy,” Knold said in the press release. “The two-year job growth measure increased from 2.3% in May 2021 to 3.3% in June 2021. A full percentage-point increase in essentially one month speaks to the rapid re-emergence of Utah’s economy, despite rumblings of labor shortages.”

The growth in the past month implies that, though labor may be scarce, a decent amount of new labor has been found, Knold added.

The following sectors have experienced a statewide surge in jobs: professional and business services (17,900 jobs); trade, transportation and utilities (16,400); construction (13,100); and manufacturing (8,200).

A lone server contends with the breakfast rush at DeDe’s in St. George, Utah, May 19, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

The four industries that posted a net loss in jobs during the same period are: leisure and hospitality services (-6,900 jobs); other services (-1,800); natural resources and mining (-1,400 jobs); and information (-800). There’s still a disconnect between these numbers, as many restaurants are struggling to fill positions.

During that same period, Washington County’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate went from 7.1% to 2.6%, and Iron County’s rate went from 6.1% to 2.6%.

In Washington County, the goods producing sector added some 2,000 jobs during that 24-month period. The service sector added 5,300 jobs. The government added 2,000 jobs. However, information jobs saw a 12.5% decrease.

DeDe’s restaurant in St. George, for instance, has been looking for a cook since the beginning of summer. To date, there have been no takers said owner DeDe Orton.

There are now approximately 44,200 Utahns unemployed, the press release said. Utah’s May unemployment rate was 2.7%, but the national unemployment rate increased to 5.9% in June. According to the most recent U.S. Dept. of Labor press release, the seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ending July 17 was 419,000, an increase of 51,000 from the previous week’s revised level.

According to a report by Forbes, those numbers are being driven by two key factors. Carmakers are temporarily shutting down their factories, as they do each year to switch production for the year to come. The other major factor driving these numbers may be areas where COVID-19 cases are spiking. Those areas would likely see slower jobs growth due to new restrictions and closures.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, for instance, the Clark County Commission put a new mask mandate into effect. The mandate, along with restrictions on gatherings of 250 or more people, and another push to get people vaccinated, will be revisited Aug. 17 by the County Commission.

City of St. George Mayor Michele Randall, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

While COVID-19 cases are spiking in Southern Utah, St. George Mayor Michele Randall said she’s hesitant to reimplement such measures.

“I’m not in favor of any lockdowns,” she told St. George News. “And I don’t want to go back to mask mandates.”

Randall said that she’s also not in favor of vaccine mandates.

“That is an individual choice for each person to make,” she said. “We’ve had a year to research this, and decide what is right for ourselves.”

“Wash your hands frequently,” she added. “And if you’re sick, even if you think it’s just a cold, please stay home. Don’t go anywhere if you feel sick.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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