New County Economic Snapshots for the First Quarter of 2021


By Michael Jeanfreau, Lecia Langston, and Lyndsey Stram (Regional Economists)

Check out the overall economic health of counties in Utah during the first quarter of 2021 in the below summaries and data visualizations. The quarterly county snapshots feature updates on economic indicators such as nonfarm job growth, unemployment rates, dwelling unit permits, and gross taxable sales.

Bear River Region

Box Elder County

Manufacturing, which is the largest industry in the county and makes up about 30% of employment in the area, saw disruptions in 2020 due to supply line complications during COVID-19. The first quarter shows the industry almost recovered, pushing the unemployment rate from its record spike of 10.4% in April down to 2.2% in June 2021. First-time unemployment insurance claims have dropped in the first quarter of 2021 from their initial pandemic spike in 2020 but have remained consistently over what we saw pre-pandemic, particularly within the manufacturing industry. However, there are good signs in the economy: dwelling unit construction permits are up in year-to-date 2021 significantly, as is change in total construction permit value. Gross taxable sales grew 23% in Q1 2020, another quarter of growth in a string of significant gains. View Box Elder County’s data visualization.

Cache County

The economy in Cache County has been and continues to be one of the strongest in Utah and the nation. A very low unemployment rate of 1.9% and healthy positive nonfarm job growth are both signs of an economy that avoided the worst of the pandemic effects. Cache County's nonfarm year-over growth rate of 3.8% growth is a feat, especially compared to both the nation (4.4% loss) and Utah (1.1% gain). First-time unemployment insurance claims remain higher than in previous years, but total construction permit values and gross taxable sales revenue are both up significantly in 2021, a healthy sign for the Cache economy. View Cache County’s data visualization.

Rich County

Rich County’s small size makes the data fluctuate easily. For example, the county went from a 16% year-over-loss in March 2020 due to the pandemic to 10% overall growth by October of the same year. The story changed when Rich saw overall job loss at the end of 2020, largely due to a struggling leisure/hospitality industry. In Q1 2021, Rich County once again saw high growth of over 10%. Additionally, growth in gross taxable sales revenue has jumped to 61% growth year-over-year, but wages continue to stagnate and fail to keep up with growth across the state. View Rich County’s data visualization.

Castle Country Region

Carbon County

While there are significant improvements in many economic indicators, the global pandemic continues its effects on the Carbon County economy in the first quarter of 2021. After peaking at 9.2% in April 2020, the unemployment rate has fallen considerably over the past year, to 3.7% in June 2021. While many of the county's largest sectors lost jobs throughout 2020, wages have improved and initial claims for unemployment insurance remain low. There was a 3.8% decline in employment over the past year, largely due to the lingering effects of COVID-19. Construction permitting and taxable sales have both increased in the past year, and are bright spots in the county’s economy. View Carbon County’s data visualization.

Emery County

Unlike many of its neighbors, Emery County has already returned to positive job growth in the first quarter of 2021. Between March 2020 and March 2021, 124 jobs were added to Emery County. Other positive news in recent data include: reduced unemployment, and increased average wages. The unemployment rate peaked at 8.2% in April 2020 but has fallen, most recently to 4.2% in June of 2021. Average wages and gross taxable sales have both remained relatively flat in Emery County in the past year, a departure from the statewide trend of increases in both indicators. View Emery County’s data visualization.

Central Region

Millard County

Millard County’s low dependence on tourism insulated it from the worst of the COVID-19 recessionary effects. The county had resumed job growth by the end of 2020 and continued to add jobs in the new year. In March 2021, year-to-year gains generated a 2.0% rate of increase with most private sector industries joining the job-growth club. In conjunction with this employment expansion, the county’s unemployment rate dropped to just 2.3% in June. Moreover, both construction permitting and gross taxable sales showed notable improvements. All in all, Millard County sports an economy on the rebound. View Millard County’s data visualization.

Piute County

Although it toyed with job growth in the past several months, Piute County has yet to achieve a consistent track record of expansion, which is necessary to reflect a true economic recovery. As of March 2021, the county showed a small, three-job increase (up 1.2%). This rate dithering is common for less-populated counties and Piute County is still outperforming the nation (which continues to lose employment). The area’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in June mirroring its pre-pandemic level. As elsewhere, stimulus dollars continued to prop up sales (up 24% year-over-year in the first quarter). Many Piute County workers commute outside its borders for work, making its anemic job growth less debilitating. View Piute County’s data visualization.

Sanpete County

Sanpete County weathered the pandemic recession better than most due to its low reliance on tourism-related employment. The county was adding employment before 2020 and continued that performance into 2021. On a year-over basis, employment expansion measured a moderate 2.8% in March 2021. As employment opportunities grew, the unemployment rate fell, registering just 2.7% in June. Now a tight labor market is more of an issue than the detrimental COVID-19 effects. Stimulus spending has kept both construction permitting and gross taxable sales booming (up 37% in the first quarter). All indicators point to an economy firmly ensconced in recovery. View Sanpete County’s data visualization.

Sevier County

By the end of 2020, Sevier County had left the pandemic recession in the rearview mirror. And, by March 2021, its year-over-year growth rate measured a solid 2.8%. Most industries contributed to the overall gain with only leisure/hospitality services showing a significant decline. As employment improved, the county’s unemployment rate declined to just 3.2% suggestive of a tight labor market. Pandemic relief spending kept both construction permitting and gross taxable sales booming (up 25% in the first quarter of 2021). All indicators currently paint a portrait of a healthy economy. View Sevier County’s data visualization.

Wayne County

Although Wayne County has a noteworthy tourism component, it crossed the border into employment expansion by the end of 2020. That improvement continued in 2021, with March 2021 generating a year-to-year growth rate of 4.8%. Unlike many areas, leisure/hospitality services have fully returned to expansion. Not surprisingly, the county’s unemployment rate has shown a persistent decline, measuring 4.7% in June (seasonal unemployment keeps the seasonally adjusted average high). A by-product of stimulus spending, both construction permitting and gross taxable sales (up a whopping 57%) boomed. Wayne County has managed a great comeback from the pandemic recession despite its heavy reliance on tourism. View Wayne County’s data visualization.

Mountainland Region

Juab County

While much of the state and nation continues to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Juab County has largely returned to positive and 'normal' territory in major economic indicators. The county's unemployment rate peaked in April 2020 at 5.7% and the county employment saw the largest decrease, 2.2%, between April 2019 and April 2020. First-quarter data reveals employment growth of 4.3% in the past year, with the most significant increases in the manufacturing sector. Construction permitting has increased even over the strong levels of the past few years. Taxable sales also increased by nearly 25% in the past year. View Juab County’s data visualization.

Summit County

Summit County in particular was affected heavily by the pandemic. The 'stay safe, stay home' orders and increase in cases hit at what is normally the ski season peak in the Spring of 2020, causing mass unemployment and a drop in tourism spending, which the area depends on. While the unemployment rate and job losses moderated slightly as the year went on, many of these effects continued as tourism in the area remained below normal levels. Summit County employment decreased 8.5% in the past year, almost entirely due to leisure/hospitality employment decreases. Construction and taxable sales have both increased significantly over the last year. View Summit County’s data visualization.

Utah County

Utah County remains a bright spot in the statewide economy after a tumultuous year. Already, the local economy has returned to adding significant amounts of employment, sharp decreases in unemployment, taxable sales growth, and continued construction. The diversity of the local economy is a solid foundation to continue the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Employment in Utah County increased 4.3% in the past year, while the unemployment rate fell to 2.2% in June 2021, after a peak of 7.7% in April 2020. Construction permitting and valuations have increased in the past year as Utah County continues its rapid growth. View Utah County’s data visualization.

Wasatch County

Though 2020 was a challenging year for the area and beyond, Wasatch County has rebounded to growth in many ways. Nearly every industry sector added jobs in the past year, resulting in employment growth of nearly 7%. After a peak of 17.7% in April 2020, the unemployment rate fell to 2.5% in June 2021. As the population in Wasatch County continues to increase, the rate of construction is as well with 340 new dwelling unit permits already approved in 2021. Gross taxable sales also increased 28% in the past year, a sign of continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. View Wasatch County’s data visualization.

Southeast Region

Grand County

In the spring of 2020, the economic outlook in Grand County was relatively bleak. Grand County's unemployment rate peaked in April at 27% and the county employment saw the largest decrease, 32%, between April 2019 and April 2020. Though the picture improved through the rest of the year, the effects of the pandemic have been severe in the county's economy which is largely tourism-dependent. However, the economic situation is turning up, with many indicators showing positive movement in the first quarter. There has been modest employment growth, 2.3%, in the past year, largely in trade/transportation/utilities and professional/business services. Taxable sales have increased sharply, 67%, compared to the low spending of 2020. View Grand County’s data visualization.

San Juan County

Still reeling from the effects of COVID-19, San Juan County continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the state (6.1% in June 2021) and employment decreased 7.3% over the past year. The county's unemployment rate peaked in April at 16.6% and the county employment saw the largest decrease, 17.3%, between May 2019 and May 2020. As a county with a large leisure/hospitality sector, there is a delay in rebounding from the past year’s economic downturn. Gross taxable sales is a positive indicator in the local economy, there was an increase of nearly 20% in spending in the past year. View San Juan County’s data visualization.

Southwest Region

Beaver County

The first few months of 2021 brought welcome economic relief to Beaver County. The area has fortunately returned to employment expansion (up 3.5% year-over-year in March). In tandem, its unemployment rate dipped to just 2.7% in June. These factors dovetail to make the tight labor market a primary issue in contrast to the pandemic contraction. Fewer first-time claims for unemployment insurance also point to an economy in recovery mode. The county fleshed out this rosy picture with strong gains in construction permitting and a year-over gross taxable sales increase of 29% in the first quarter. However, pandemic relief dollars will eventually work themselves through the economy leaving it to stand on its own merits. View Beaver County’s data visualization.

Garfield County

Because of Garfield County’s extensive reliance on tourism-related employment, it felt the consequences of the pandemic recession more intensely than did most Utah counties. Fortunately, the beginning of 2021 found Garfield County in healing mode. As of March 2021, the county had reached the break-even point (year-over-year) and even flirted with job growth in February. In addition, unemployment rates continued to ease, slipping to 6.4% in June. Perpetually high because of the economy’s seasonal nature, joblessness still remains above pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, leisure/hospitality services continued to shed employment. Sales in the county benefited from stimulus dollars with a 31% first-quarter 2020 increase led by leisure/hospitality services spending. While not completely rehabilitated, Garfield County’s economy is certainly on the mend. View Garfield County’s data visualization.

Iron County

Iron County continued the expansionary pattern it set at the end of 2020 with improved job growth in the first few months of 2021. The county’s year-to-year increase measured a robust 4.1% by March 2021 with most major industries contributing to the gain. And, while leisure/hospitality services showed persistent contraction, losses are much smaller than earlier in the pandemic. The county’s unemployment rate slipped to just 2.6% in June reflecting the area’s tight labor market. Stimulus dollars continued to fuel improvements in both construction permitting and gross taxable sales (up a whopping 32% in the first quarter). All indicators point to an expanding economy with only the looming loss of pandemic relief dollars shadowing the horizon. View Iron County’s data visualization.

Kane County

Kane County’s employment totals continued to hover near and/or above the year-over-year break-even point in the first few months of 2021. But by March 2021, the county managed to produce a 1.7% year-to-year gain in nonfarm jobs. Even leisure/hospitality services, once devastated by the pandemic, added new positions. As jobs returned, the county’s unemployment rate slipped to 2.8% — near the pre-pandemic level. Homebuilding continued to ignore the COVID-19 downturn as a surge in leisure/hospitality services sales helped drive total sales up by an incredible 65% in the first quarter. Kane County’s economy has definitely entered expansionary territory. View Kane County’s data visualization.

Washington County

Washington County benefited from shutdowns in other nearby western states as an influx of tourists and population helped the area return to job growth by August 2020. In March 2021, year-to-year employment expansion reached 4.7% — near the county’s long-term average. Moreover, most major industries contributed to this growth — even leisure/hospitality services. Strong employment expansion resulted in an unemployment rate that plummeted to a mere 2.6% in June. Home permitting is running neck and neck with 2020 (with the highest number of permits ever). Stimulus-dollar spending helped drive first-quarter gross taxable sales up more than 34% (year-to-year). The county’s labor market now faces a dearth of workers and a tight labor market suggesting the economy may be overheating. View Washington County’s data visualization.

Uintah Basin Region

Daggett County

After initial job losses in the spring of 2020, Daggett County has quickly returned to positive territory in multiple indicators. Employment increased 5.5% in the past year, due largely to increases in the leisure/hospitality sector. After peaking at 9% in April 2020, unemployment has fallen to 3.8% most recently (June 2021). After falling taxable sales in the first quarter of 2020, the county saw a 67% increase, a positive indicator of post-pandemic recovery in the tourism-dependent area. View Daggett County’s data visualization.

Duchesne County

The newly released first quarter 2021 data gives insight into the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy. Duchesne County's employment remains down (-5.4%) and the unemployment rate remains elevated compared to the rest of the state, 4.6% as of 2021. The mining sector is a major employer in the area and has been susceptible to the economic downturn brought by the pandemic, causing many job losses in the past year. Construction permitting approvals and valuations are up as of May 2021, a bright spot in the local economy. The statewide trend of increased taxable sales doesn’t seem to have reached Duchesne County; however, taxable sales have decreased slightly since last year. View Duchesne County’s data visualization.

Uintah County

The newly released first-quarter data gives insight into the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy. Uintah County's unemployment rate peaked in April 2020 at 15.9%, then fell at a slower rate than much of the state, remaining slightly elevated at 5.4% in June 2021. The mining sector, a major employer in the county, has been heavily impacted by the pandemic’s effects and accounted for much of the 2.1% loss of employment in the past year. Construction permitting has increased in the past year and as of May, 55 new dwelling units have been approved, nearly topping the number approved in all of 2020. Gross taxable sales also increased nearly 14% in the past year. View Uintah County’s data visualization.

Wasatch Front North Region

Davis County

In the face of adverse conditions, the Davis County economy has recovered quickly from the initial effects of the pandemic. The unemployment rate dropped from its record spike of 9.0% in April down to 2.3% in June 2021. First-time unemployment insurance claims have continued to taper down towards lower averages in Q2 after the initial surge in 2020. With jobs growing a healthy 1.2% in March 2021 year-over-year, Davis County saw growth in line with the State of Utah average of 1.1% and fared better than the national losses of 4.4%. Dwelling unit construction and the total value is up year-to-date, and with growth in both gross taxable sales and average wages, 2021 looks bright for Davis County. View Davis County’s data visualization.

Morgan County

The first quarter of 2021 was fantastic for Morgan County. Almost every industry sector has seen strong growth in nonfarm jobs, with only minor exceptions. Particularly strong gains came in mining, construction, and trade/transport/utility which each added around 40 jobs and marked a year-over growth rate of 6.1% in nonfarm jobs. The unemployment rate continues to lower, resting at 1.9% in June 2021. Construction permit values are up and average monthly wages have increased. Interestingly, Morgan County has seen some of the highest gross taxable sales growth in the state, with growth around 30% or over for the last four quarters including Q1 2021. View Morgan County’s data visualization.

Weber County

With the effects of COVID-19 impacting industries differently, Weber is a mixed bag of standout industries growing despite others still recovering. Overall, Weber recorded 0.6% nonfarm job growth, the only county in northern Utah below the state average of 1.1%. Trade/transport/utility, construction, and government combined recorded 1,400 nonfarm jobs gained year over in March 2021, but losses elsewhere resulted in an overall net gain of 625 jobs. Weber County's unemployment dropped to 2.7% in June 2021, the same as the Utah average. The number of dwelling unit construction permits issued are up from 2021 and gross taxable sales revenue have grown an incredible 21% in Q1 2021 from 2020, a healthy sign for the Weber economy. View Weber County’s data visualization.

Wasatch Front South Region

Salt Lake County

Utah's largest employment center weathered many changes in 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic affected the state and nation, Salt Lake County's employment numbers fell, unemployment ticked up sharply, while tourism and spending dwindled. Many of these key indicators show major improvements in the first quarter. Employment is up 1.1%, not a large increase but a welcome figure after job losses during much of 2020. The unemployment rate has fallen significantly from the peak of 11.2% in April of 2020, most recently to 2.5% in June 2021. Salt Lake County is on track to meet the strong construction permitting of the past few years, a bright spot in the local economy. View Salt Lake County’s data visualization.

Tooele County

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Tooele County's unemployment rate peaked in April 2020 at 10.5% and the county employment saw the largest year-over-year decrease, 4%, between April 2019 and April 2020. The start of 2021 brought major job growth and declining unemployment. A portion of the sharp employment increase of the past year was due to the correction of an accounting error that previously counted approximately 1,100 manufacturing jobs in a different county. As the population in Tooele County continues to grow, increasing construction and gross taxable sales remain bright spots in the local economy. View Tooele County’s data visualization.

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