Utah’s economy continues along at a robust pace and Tooele County thankfully isn’t standing back, scratching its head, and wondering how it missed the bus. Instead, the county is seated at the front and making history along the way.
As reported in last Thursday’s edition, a new report from the Utah Department of Workforce Services shows that Tooele County’s unemployment rate hit a new historic low of 3% in August 2019. The report says the county has a workforce of 33,182 people who are 16-64 years of age. Of that number 32,182 had a job during August while 1,000 did not.
The last time the county’s unemployment rate reached such a small number was just before the Great Recession when the rate was 3.1% during October, November and December in 2008. Yet, 2.5% in February and March 2007 is still the lowest unemployment rate in the county over the past 30 years.
Even so, 3% for August 2019 is remarkable. But the good news doesn’t stop there. The DWS report also shows the county in August had a 1.7% increase in non-farm jobs since August 2018. Specifically, non-farm jobs grew from 16,155 in August 2018 to 16,435 in August 2019.
Most of that new local job growth has occurred within the information, construction and government sectors, according to the DWS. Non-farm jobs involve primarily goods, services, construction and manufacturing-related work.
Although the county has seen higher gains in non-farm job growth in the past, like 4.2% in 2016, 1.7% still shows significant and sustainable progress. The state evidently agrees with that point.
“Overall, the picture of the Tooele County economy is positive,” according to the DWS report. “In the past year there has been job growth, low unemployment, construction and an increase in taxable sales.”
Yet, it could be argued some of the county’s impressive employment and new job numbers may have more to do with luck and geography, since the county is located just 30 minutes west of the state’s economic engine — Salt Lake County. That engine notched a 2.6% unemployment rate for August. With continued economic good times, the state marked a 2.8% unemployment rate for August and 3% growth in nonfarm jobs. For comparison the national unemployment rate for August was 3.7%.
But it could also be argued that Tooele County’s job growth has nothing to do with luck and geography. Instead, the county is making progress toward creating more opportunities for its citizens to earn a paycheck on this side of the Oquirrh Mountains. Regardless of either argument, gains are being made.
Which is exactly what has been needed here for years. And more is welcome, because despite the progress, so much of the county’s workforce — nearly 50% and possibly more, according to the DWS — still heads to the Wasatch Front every work day to earn an income.
We have long said that Tooele County’s job dependence on the Wasatch Front is worrisome. But with continued new job growth opportunities in the county, the area’s workforce has more local job choices than before. And that means more citizens are riding the bus of good economic times closer to home.