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Utah continues to live up to its billing as the most dynamic state economy, and as the state best-positioned to weather and recover from an economic downturn.

Utah’s unemployment rate in January 2012, 5.7 percent, was far below the national average of 8.3 percent, down from the state’s 7.5-percent rate from January 2011.

The state’s 2009 median household income, $54,744, ranked 14th among the states, according to the Census Bureau.

Utah’s nonagricultural employment jumped an estimated 2.6 percent (30,300 jobs) between January 2011 and January 2012, compared with a national rate of 1.5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The strongest growth industry for Utah is professional and business services, which added approximately 6,000 new positions from January 2011 to January 2012, primarily in the high-paying professional and technical industries like legal services, computer systems design, consulting, and market research. Education and healthcare grew by an estimated 4,800 positions over the same period, as did manufacturing jobs. The trade and transportation sector registered an increase of about 4,400 jobs. Utah’s Department of Workforce Services projects that job growth will be at about 3 percent for 2012.


  • Utah has one of the nation’s highest job growth rates of approximately 3%.
  • Salt Lake City ranked as the nation’s most productive city in 2011.
  • Utah topped the 2010 and 2011 Forbes list as the Best U.S. State for Business and Careers.
  • Intermountain Healthcare is Utah’s largest private employer.
  • In 2011, Utah’s nonagricultural employment increased 2.6 percent, dwarfing the national average of 1.5 percent.
  • Utah is a right-to-work state, with only about 6 percent of employees affiliated with unions, compared with 12 percent nationally.
  • Source: Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Business Environment

Utah’s robust job growth is fostered by an exceptional business environment.

  • Business Facilities named Utah first in the nation for “Best Business Climate.”
  • Forbes magazine named Utah first in its 2011 “Best States for Business and Careers” for the second consecutive year.
  • The vigor of Utah’s entrepreneurs and government helped the state rank second on the Pollina list of “Top 10 Pro-Business States” for in 2011, for the third consecutive year.
  • The Census Bureau ranks Utah third among U.S. states for overall economic health in 2011.
  • The Kauffman Foundation’s most recent (2010) State New Economy Index ranked Utah first in the nation for Economic Dynamism, #1 for Inventor Patents and #3 in Fastest Growing Firms.

The economic know-how and fiscal discipline of Utah’s state government positions Utah at the top of U.S. has garnered considerable recognition and positions the state for long-term financial strength and stability. In 2011, the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked Utah first for “Expected Economic Recovery” and “Economic Outlook” in its comprehensive “Rich States, Poor States” study. Newsweek/The Daily Beast named Utah’s capital city as one of “10 Places in America” poised for recovery, describing the Salt Lake valley as one of three “New Silicon Valleys” that combines high-paying tech jobs with low living costs.

Utah’s low taxes, disciplined spending, light regulatory burdens, and sound, insightful economic policy approach have enabled Utah to finish first overall in the most recent Forbes State by State Debt Weight Scorecard. The state is one of the few U.S. states to maintain AAA bond ratings from both Moody’s and Standard & Poor.

Utah’s Dynamic, Literate Workforce

Utah’s top-tier economic performance and dynamism are driven by a highly productive workforce with strong fundamentals, which translates into an exceptional business climate. Entrepreneurs and other high-level executives running businesses in the state note the high levels of dedication and knowledge they find among workers and potential employees. The state’s highly educated workforce enjoys the nation’s highest literacy rate (94 percent) and ranks seventh in the nation in the percentage of people 25 years and older (90.6 percent) who have completed high school.

Utah’s workforce is also highly technologically proficient and multilingual. The state consistently ranks at or near the top of states for technology use among its population. In an increasingly global economy, the unusually high level of multilingual capability in the state’s populace translates to a more flexible and capable workforce. Many Utahns have lived and worked abroad, which greatly enhances their ability to make an immediate contribution to the success of Utah-based companies and divisions that operate internationally. Approximately 80 percent of students at Brigham Young University are multilingual. According to the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, more than 130 languages are spoken in the state.

Employers find the health, youth and vitality of Utah’s workforce to be a great asset. Utah has the highest birthrate and youngest median age in the nation (see Population chapter in this book), and ranks among the nation’s healthiest states (see Healthcare chapter). The 2011 edition of the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings found Utah to be the seventh healthiest state in the United States, with the country’s lowest prevalence of smoking, the lowest incidence of cancer-related deaths, and the lowest income disparity. Utahns enjoy the sixth longest life expectancy in the nation, at 80.1 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Employment Characteristics

Utah cities and their inhabitants rank among the top U.S. places to do business.

  • Salt Lake City’s workforce ranked first in the U.S. for productivity in 2011, according to the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. The Ogden-Clearfield metropolitan area ranked 13th.
  • Ogden topped the nation in job growth from August 2010-August 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Logan ranked first in the Milken Institute’s list of “The Best Small Cities for Business.”
  • In the 2011 Milken Institute’s “Best Performing Cities” index, Salt Lake City ranked sixth (up from 53rd in 2010), Provo-Orem ninth (up from 25th) and Ogden-Clearfield 15th (up from 78th).

Data comparisons also show that Utah’s more experienced workers are highly competitive against their national counterparts. This trend will continue to maintain the state’s favorable household income ranking. Utah’s young working population is a tremendous positive for business today and for the foreseeable future.

Targeted Training

Utah has been an innovative leader in the implementation of programs that provide specific worker training and education to better fit their skills to the growing and evolving needs of the state’s dynamic companies, as the following examples illustrate.

Begun in 2008, the Incumbent Worker Training Program, sponsored by the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS), uses a computerized system to match applicants with qualifications set by hiring companies. The program provides qualified employers with matching grants for expenses related to training workers in new job-related skills. Employers develop a detailed training plan that addresses specific skills required in their businesses and how the training will benefit not only the employee and the company, but also the larger community. The program has been in high demand with employers who are able to train for specific positions requiring specialized skills and knowledge that have been especially hard to fill in Utah’s tight labor market.

Another innovative employer/employee job-matching program, Short Term Intensive Training (STIT) programs generally last less than one year, and are customized to meet the requirements of companies’ actual full-time job openings. Potential employers and employees pay tuition to participate, but STIT maximizes the changes of pairing qualified applicants with quality jobs. Currently, state funding for STIT programs is distributed to Weber State University, Southern Utah University, Salt Lake Community College, Utah Valley University and the College of Eastern Utah.

The Davis Applied Technology College (DATC) is a novel workforce training institution that helps support Utah’s fast-growing, high-performance composites business with qualified workers and technicians from within the state’s current workforce. The program supports focused marketing and recruitment efforts to encourage new or transitioning workers to move into the composites industry. Besides core composites-specific knowledge and skills, the DATC curriculum also includes job seeking/keeping skills targeted at improving worker placement and retention. The college works in close partnership with a wide variety of educational institutions, corporations, societies and governmental agencies.

Another innovative program that benefits both employers and employees in Utah is Custom Fit, a collaborative partnership between Salt Lake Community College, various Utah Applied Technology Center campuses, strategic partners and local businesses across the state, which provides relevant customized training that leads directly to jobs. Contract processing can happen as quickly as 15 to 21 days.


Utah is one of 23 U.S. states operating under a right-to-work law. Under the Utah provision, no individual seeking or holding a job in the state may be forced to join or pay dues to a labor union, nor conversely prevented from joining a union and/or engaging in collective bargaining. Union membership is low in Utah, with less than 6 percent of manufacturing employees affiliating with unions, compared to a national average of about 12 percent.

Utah’s Largest Employers

The list of Utah’s largest employers includes a blend of public and private organizations. Three organizations in the state employ more than 20,000 workers each: Intermountain Healthcare, a statewide network of hospitals and clinics; the State of Utah; and the University of Utah.Brigham Young University and Wal-Mart are the next-largest employers, with 15,000-19,999 employees each. Hill Air Force Base, a military installation in the Ogden area, is currently the only Utah organization that employs between 10,000 and 14,999. Two major school districts—Granite and Davis—and Utah State University each employ between 7,000 and 9,999 Utah residents. The Alpine School District, Smith’s Food and Drug Centers, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Salt Lake County, the U.S. Postal Service and the Jordan School District each employ between 5,000 and 6,999 in Utah.