What Utah’s 3.1 Percent Unemployment Rate Really Means

Sep 26, 2018, 7:58 PM | Updated: 9:18 pm

AMERICAN FORK, Utah – Wherever you look, nearly all of Utah’s 98,000 businesses are hiring. Unemployment is just 3.1 percent and that’s putting pressure on many businesses. It’s a common sight to see employers advertising that they are hiring in Utah and right now, many entry level jobs are difficult to fill.

Just ask the owners of Fong Asian Dining, a family owned restaurant, near 500 East and State in American Fork.

“What I feel happens with most family-owned businesses, is that whenever we can’t hire someone, we end up doing the work on our own,” said Annie Li.

So during the day, it’s often up to the owners to get the job done. Over the past several years, they’ve built a loyal following of customers.

“Oh my goodness, we have been coming here for years,” said Jessica Villeneube, who describes herself as a regular customer. “I think it is hands down the best Chinese food you will find. It is always fresh and we don’t eat Chinese food anywhere else, this is where we come.”

Like most restaurants in Utah now, Fongs is always looking for servers.

“I feel that a lot of people who look for server jobs are high school students who go to school in the day, so it is hard to find someone who is willing to do mornings and nights,” Li said.

Fongs is better off than most chain restaurants, where companies are having to get very creative, to make it easy for people to apply for positions.

“Sometimes what you see happen are the lower-paying jobs struggle more than the others,” said Carrie Mayne, Chief Economist, for the Utah Department of Workforce services.

She said while available fast food jobs are very visible, all job sectors in Utah – except mining – are dealing with a labor shortage.

“We are seeing a need for workers at all the different skill levels can be challenging for employers to fill those positions when they are fighting for the workers,” she said.

Mayne said the lack of available workforce is related to the state’s growing economy.

“When unemployment gets really low like in the 3 percent range, we often call that full employment, meaning that everyone who wants a job, is getting a job. That 3 percent are simply people who are in the process of looking (for) and getting a job,” she added.

State economists also said many businesses may be forced to pay higher wages to be staffed with enough employees to keep operating, which in turn will add to the costs for the consumer.

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What Utah’s 3.1 Percent Unemployment Rate Really Means