Monday, May 1, 2017

Census Bureau Tool Provides Labor-Force Insight for Utah

By Mark Knold and Cory Stahle

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 (imputted 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 South region, here are some labor highlights:

Salt Lake County:

  • The largest industry group by employment in Salt Lake County is professional and business services. While it has consistently been the largest, it has gradually increased its share of total employment since the recession in 2009.
  • In addition to size, the business services industry also happens to be one of the most dynamic and has the most churn, due to the inclusion of temporary staffing agencies.
  • Turnover rates fell significantly in the last recession as job opportunities dried up and employees remained with their companies. Conversely, turnover rates have been on a steady tread upward in the last few years as workers have seized new job opportunities.
  • The trends mentioned under statewide highlights regarding age, education, race and gender are mirrored in Salt Lake County.

Tooele County:

  • The largest industry group by employment in Tooele County is retail/wholesale trade. Of these nearly 1,900 jobs, 1,740 are in retail trade which includes general merchandise and grocery stores.
  • The transportation/warehousing/utilities industry share of total employment nearly doubled in the last 10 years. This growth is being driven by the warehousing and storage industry which now employs nearly 1,000 workers.
  • Professional/Business Services has seen its share of total employment decline by a third in the last five years. These losses are primarily in the waste treatment and disposal industry, which lost nearly 1,000 jobs from 2012 to 2015.