Thursday, May 4, 2017

Census Bureau Tool Provides Labor-Force Insight for Wasatch Front North

Across the United States, jobs are quantified through each state’s unemployment insurance program. Those programs provide the potential for laid-off workers to receive unemployment benefits — the goal being to bridge the gap between workers’ lost jobs and their next jobs. An eligible recipient’s weekly benefit amount is based upon their earnings from recent work. This begs the question, how does Utah’s unemployment insurance program know how much an individual recently earned while working?

That answer is supplied by all businesses that hire workers, as they must report their employees and pay as mandated by the unemployment insurance laws. Companies identify their individual workers and those workers’ monetary earnings for a calendar quarter. As businesses are identified by their industrial activity and geographic location, it is through the unemployment insurance program that aggregate employment counts by industry and location are calculated.

Yet each state’s profiling of individuals is quite minimal in the unemployment insurance program. The U.S. Census Bureau can bring more light to the overall labor force by supplementing said information with gender, age, race/ethnicity and educational attainment (imputed from American Community Survey responses) for Utah’s labor force.

The Census Bureau packages this information through their Local Employment Dynamics program and makes available said data on its website. Here at the Department of Workforce Services, we recently downloaded and packaged Utah-specific data from said website and summarized it in the attached visualization.

Various data “tabs” are available, presenting Utah’s economy from different angles, ranging from industry shares within the economy to the age-group distributions of the labor force, to gender and race distributions. These labor variables can be viewed for the state as a whole, or by each individual county.

Some statewide highlights:

Industry — industrial distribution is quite diverse, which provides strength within the economy. Distributions do fluctuate with time, with manufacturing seeing its share lessen while health care and professional and business services shares have increased.

Age — the bulk of Utah’s labor force is composed of 25- to 44-year-olds. Older worker shares have increased over the past 15 years, yet still remain a non-dominant portion of Utah’s labor force. The youngest segments of the labor force declined noticeably during the Great Recession due to less participation, and that trend remains.

Educational Attainment — turnover rates are understandably highest with workers under the age of 25 as they strive to build their educational foundation and also find their niche in the labor market. A trend does stand out where the more education that a worker attains, the lower the turnover rate businesses experience from said educational classes.

Race/Ethnicity — Whites account for around 80 percent of Utah’s labor force. The Asian community is small but slowly increasing in share, and is also characterized with the lowest turnover rate and the highest new-hire wages.

Gender — males comprise about 55 percent of Utah’s labor force. The female share of 45 percent is higher than the national average. Roughly 35 percent of working females work part-time compared to 15 percent for males. Therefore, female new-hire wages are considerably lower than male new-hire wages. (Note: employer reporting into the unemployment insurance system is not hourly wage rate reporting but instead total calendar quarter wages paid. Therefore, calculations can only be made upon total quarterly wages, and part-time employment weakens this measure).

As for the various counties in the Wasatch Front North region, here are some labor highlights:

Davis County –
Retail/wholesale trade industries dominate in Davis County with more than 16 percent of employment. This share has been in decline, however, since the end of the recession – not due to a decline in these industries, rather, due to increased growth in professional and business services, which includes management/scientific/technical consulting services. Alone, this sector has added more than 1,000 jobs over the last 10 years.

In just the last two years, construction and manufacturing have both begun to regain some of the share of employment lost after the recession. Non-residential building construction in particular has added about 500 new jobs since 2013.

Weber County –
Perhaps surprisingly, Weber County has an even larger share of employment in retail/wholesale trade than Davis County – nearly 17 percent compared to 16 percent, but that is primarily due to the wholesale portion of that sector which has a large grocery and related product merchant wholesaler employer in the Ogden area.

Manufacturing and professional/business services both compose large shares of Weber County employment, about 14 percent and 15 percent respectively. However, the health care/social services sector has been increasing its share over the last 15 years more than any other sector. In 2000, the sector’s share was about 9 percent and now it’s nearly 13 percent – a major shift. In particular, over that time, the general medical and surgical hospitals industry has added more than 2,000 new jobs, primarily driven by the new McKay-Dee Hospital facilities and service expansions in Ogden in the early 2000s.

Morgan County –
In Morgan County, the largest share of employment is in the retail/wholesale trade sector as well, at about 20 percent. Like Weber County, this is largely due to the wholesale industry since Browning, the largest employer in the county, is classified as a wholesaler.

Construction is the next largest sector, although it has been trending toward a smaller share since the end of the recession. The number of employed in construction has not changed much in the last 15 years, averaging between 300 and 350 workers, but the health care/social assistance sector has been growing quickly – from about 25 jobs in 2000 to more than 170 in 2016, thus edging out construction’s share of the pie. Residential care facilities and ambulatory health service have been driving that growth.