Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How educated is the Wasatch Front North’s workforce?
It depends on how you look at it — based on where they work or where they live.

Matt Schroeder, Regional Economist

Local leaders have become increasingly aware of the relationship between the education level of their local workforce and the economic strength of their communities. Higher levels of education are closely linked to higher incomes for individuals; which, in turn, brings in higher tax revenues and lower government social program costs. People with higher education levels tend to be healthier, more involved in community organizations and give more to charity. They are also less likely to be chronically unemployed, less likely to require social assistance, and have lower incarceration rates.

More broadly, when businesses look to expand or locate in a particular area, one of the primary factors they consider is the availability and training of the local workforce. A region with a more highly educated labor pool will tend to draw businesses that need highly educated employees. Those jobs, in turn, tend to garner higher wages. Higher wages mean more consumer spending and tax revenue for local governments, which allow for investment in infrastructure, public services and community development.

These benefits have long been known and I mention them to highlight why so much emphasis is often placed on education in the public arena. It really matters for community health and development. But there is an interesting question to this issue that is seldom explored when we think about how to better educate our local workforce: Should we be focusing on the education levels of the people who live in our communities, or on those who work in our communities?

To clarify, we’re talking about community investment in increasing higher education attainment levels, not the funding of primary and secondary education. On the resident workforce side, this may include expanding post-secondary degree programs and institutions, or encouraging and supporting student enrollment in higher education. On the working workforce side, higher levels of educational attainment are achieved by growing the number of jobs that require higher levels of education. Community investments to achieve this may include developing infrastructure and facilities to meet the needs of businesses, incentives for target industries.

For a local city or county considering investing in these types of development projects with limited funds, where should their focus be? This is an especially relevant question in an area like the Wasatch Front North where the local commuting patterns are very fluid. Thousands of commuters flow (mostly south) along I-15 every day to jobs in other cities and counties. A well-educated economist, for example, may be living in Ogden, but commutes down to Salt Lake City every day for work. Should local leaders be concerned with developing a better-educated resident workforce if they are likely to commute somewhere else for work? Or should the community be more focused on bringing in the kinds of jobs that will help keep an already well-educated population working closer to home?

The answers to these questions depend on the specific characteristics of local economies, and unfortunately, no single answer or formula can be applied across the board. As a start, it helps to first have a picture of what’s actually happening. The interactive data visualization above allows you to see the situation for your county. Click on the map to see your county and hover over each chart to see details and an interpretation of the data.

In Davis, Morgan and Weber counties more people commute out for work than come in. Of the three, Davis County has the largest net outflow, with more than 26,000 net out-commuters representing about 30 percent of the resident workforce. Of those 26,000, more than 40 percent, or some 11,000 net out-commuters, have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The share of workers with a bachelor’s degree living in Davis County is 34 percent while the share working there is just 31 percent.

Morgan County sees the largest percentage of its resident workforce commute outside the county for work. The net out-flow of 1,800 workers represents more than 60 percent of the resident workforce and about 650 of those have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The share of workers with a bachelor’s degree or more living in Morgan County is 33 percent — 6 percentage-points higher than the 27 percent with the same level of education actually working in the county.

Weber County has the lowest rate of worker out-flow of the three counties. More people commute out for work than come in, but the net outflow of about 1,600 represents only 2.5 percent of the resident workforce, and about half of those are workers with a bachelor’s or higher.

Each of these counties is distinct in terms of the factors that play into why their worker flow patterns exist. For Davis and Morgan counties there is clearly a current resident population more educated than the local job market demands. It may be worth exploring the possibility that those areas may benefit from a greater focus on high-skilled job creation. Weber County, on the other hand, is currently balanced in terms of the share of highly educated workers that live and work there, but with a relatively low share in both, Weber may benefit most from a two-pronged approach that seeks to bring in higher skilled jobs while at the same time building the workforce to fill them.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Utah's Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rates

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for all Utah counties have been posted online here.

Each month, these rates are posted the Monday following the Unemployment Rate Update for Utah.

For more information about seasonally adjusted rates, read a DWS analysis here.

Next update scheduled for Mar 7th.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Utah's Employment Situation for December 2015

Utah's Employment Situation for December 2015 has been released on the web.

Find the Current Economic Situation in its entirety here.

For charts and tables, including County Employment, go to the Employment and Unemployment page.

Next update scheduled for March 2nd, 2016.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Agricultural Employment – The Census of Agriculture Gives a More Complete Picture

By Matt Schroeder, Regional Economist

Farming, (or more generally, agriculture) is obviously an important part of the economy, so why is that when you hear employment statistics reported in the news, you typically hear them reported as “nonfarm” employment?

“Nonfarm payroll employment” is terminology from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), and the term is slightly misleading. There is, in fact, some data on agricultural employment in the QCEW data typically reported, it’s just not complete. QCEW employment data is based on administrative records from employers who pay into the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, so workers not covered under UI laws are not captured. Agricultural employers are generally exempt from the requirements for UI coverage, so the data are simply not comprehensive enough to calculate reliable estimates. Furthermore, many agricultural operations are sole-proprietorships that are also exempt from UI coverage (whether in agriculture or not), so those individuals are not recorded either.

All of this comes down to the fact that the typical “nonfarm” employment statistics you hear about in the news, on average, do not include roughly 90 percent of Utah’s agricultural employment. In 2012, QCEW reported fewer than 5,000 employees in “Covered Agriculture” for the whole state, which represented less than one half of one percent of Utah’s total employment.

Fortunately, the Census of Agriculture, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture once every five years, gives a revealing picture of the agricultural sector. The most recent data, covering 2012, were released last May 2015. The Agricultural Census surveys all of those UI-exempt farms that the QCEW misses and found that there were nearly 47,000 jobs in agriculture in 2012 — more than 3.5 percent of Utah’s total employment.

The share is not quite as large in the Wasatch Front North region, where agriculture represents about 2.6 percent of the local economy — according to the Census of Agriculture. But this is a much larger share than the 0.4 percent suggested by the QCEW. Weber and Davis counties respectively rank 4th and 9th in the state in terms of total agricultural employment. Morgan County is relatively small in total number, but agriculture’s share of all Morgan County jobs is more than 30 percent.

Agricultural Profile of Wasatch Front North


By Matt Schroeder, Regional Economist

The visualization above uses data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture to profile the agricultural activity of the Wasatch Front North region. You can adjust the filter to view individual counties or groups of counties as well as change the year to 2007 to see how things changed since the last Census of Agriculture. To view the profile of the whole state, select “Statewide” alone.

As a whole, the Wasatch Front North region had more than 1,900 farms in 2012 representing about 11 percent of the state’s farms but only about 4 percent of the state’s total farm acreage — highlighting the relatively small average farm size in the region. The bar chart in the center suggests that of those farms, more than 1,400, or about 77 percent, were very small farms with less than 50 acres.

Despite the small farm sizes, as the title above the map at the right shows, roughly 42 percent, or 400,000 acres, of Wasatch Front North’s 950,000 acres of land are used for agriculture. The pie chart at the bottom-left displays that about 310,000 acres of that are pasture and rangeland while only about 62,000 acres are cropland. Two-thirds, or about 200,000 acres, of the region’s pasture and rangeland is in Morgan County.

In terms of value, the Wasatch Front North’s agricultural sales comprised more than 5 percent of the statewide total in 2012. The second pie chart, at the bottom-right, shows that of the roughly $100 million in agricultural sales in 2012, more than half was from the sale of crops. More than $22 million in nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod sales comprised the largest proportion of that. Of the livestock products sold, the largest category, in terms of value, was milk, at nearly $17 million, or 17 percent of the total.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Weber County Economic Update

Weber County Starts 2015 With a Bang

By Matt Schroeder 

Weber County employment is growing at a rate not seen in more than 10 years and is very wide-spread across all industries. Taxable sales were up more than 6 percent with particular strength in retail markets suggesting that consumer confidence continues to build. Unemployment remains low and initial unemployment insurance claims are back to pre-recession levels. Overall, the indicators are reaffirming that the long term trajectory of economic performance for the county is very positive.

Morgan County Economic Update

Morgan County Continues Expansion in Early 2015

By Matt Schroeder

Morgan County continued robust economic expansion in early 2015. Employment grew at a faster rate than any other county in northern Utah.  Taxable sales were up 15 percent. Unemployment remains among the lowest in the state and initial unemployment insurance claims are back to pre-recession levels. Wage growth, although not great, is outpacing the rest of the state. Overall, the indicators are reaffirming that the long term trajectory of economic performance for the county is positive.

Davis County Economic Update

Davis County Kicks Off 2015 With Robust Gains

By Matt Schroeder


Davis County was strong out of the gate in early 2015. Job growth was robust and broad-based. Taxable sales were up 9.5 percent with particular strength in motor vehicles. Unemployment remains low and initial unemployment insurance claims are near pre-recession levels. Overall, the indicators are reaffirming that the long term trajectory of economic performance for the county is positive.


Local Insights updated on the web

By Mark Knold, Supervising Economist 

Shelter is one of humanity’s basic needs. That is why housing is everywhere. Since housing is so ubiquitous, it becomes an important component in an economy’s foundation, and as such becomes an economic indicator.

In this issue of Local Insights, we look at the demand for housing structures, the amount of housing permits and their history, and how this history shows that housing demand follows the ups and downs of a region’s economic performance. In evaluating the volume of housing permits, we also parallel the health and vitality of the local economy.

People need jobs that supply them income in order to afford housing. Jobs are not the only factor, as things like affordability and the ability to obtain lending also play their part in housing demand. But the foundation of housing demand is the health of the job market.


The graph shows Utah statewide housing permits. A trend of normal permitting activity is evident from 1996 through 2004. Permits rose during the pre-Great Recession boom, then became lethargic for the seven years following. It is just recently that the volume of permit activity is again approaching something normal. That in itself is an economic indicator of an improved Utah economy.


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To read more, see the latest issues of Local Insights. To receive a printed copy, please call 801-526-9785.