A Peek into the Economic Crystal Ball

Utah Releases New Short-Term Occupational Projections

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

"I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place." –Winston Churchill

In contrast to Winston Churchill, economists at the Utah Department of Workforce Services don’t have the luxury of projecting occupational trends after the fact. Our latest foray into the world of the unknown has produced the 2017 to 2019 occupational projections for Utah. You can find the full set of projections here.

New Methodology

If you were to compare the number of total projected openings from our previous set of short-term projections (2016-2018) to the current 2017-2019 set, you might be perplexed. Why? In the new set, annual openings increase roughly 3.5 times compared to the previous projections. Do we really expect Utah’s economy to perform so much better in the next two years? Well, not so much. The economy is still expected to be strong, although the number of projected openings due to growth is actually expected to contract slightly.

What’s changed? Utah has adopted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) new methodology for estimating one of the components of projected occupational openings — replacement openings. These replacement openings occur as workers transfer to another occupation or exit the local labor market altogether. Research and anecdotal evidence suggests this new estimation methodology better reflects actual occupational changes made by workers in the labor market. This change also results in much higher numbers of overall projected openings. For a complete discussion of this new methodology, check out our previous blog post here.

Here are some highlights from our 2017 to 2019 occupational projections:

  • Utah’s employment is expected to grow at an annual rate of 2.7 percent between 2015 and 2017, resulting in 41,400 openings for new jobs each year.

  • Replacement needs created by workers changing occupations or leaving the labor market will result in more than 170,000 additional openings, for a total of 211,400 openings per year.

  • Roughly 80 percent of openings are expected to be the result of occupational transfers and exits, leaving only 20 percent of openings due to growth.

  • Replacement openings resulting from occupational transfers will result in a higher share of openings than occupational exits.

  • All major occupational groups are expected to expand during the next two years.

  • Construction, personal care and architecture/engineering occupations are expected to experience the most rapid expansion.

  • Construction employment is expected to continue improving beyond the heavy losses experienced during the Great Recession.

  • Office/administrative support, sales and food preparation/serving occupations are projected to produce the highest number of openings. These are large occupational groups which also tend to show high transfer and exit rates.

  • Individual occupations with the highest projected openings can typically be found in office/administrative support, sales and food preparation/serving groups. These occupations characteristically include large numbers of current workers, as well.

  • Occupations typically requiring a high school education or less should produce the highest number of openings.

  • Computer and mathematical occupations show one of the highest rates of transfer openings.

  • Education/training/library occupations show one of the lowest rates of transfer openings.