January 13, 2022 (Salt Lake City) – The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute today presented the 34th Economic Report to the Governor to Utah Gov. Spencer Cox at the 2022 Economic Outlook & Public Policy Summit, hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber. The report has been the preeminent source for data and commentary on Utah’s economy for over 30 years, with the latest edition highlighting Utah’s economic comeback in 2021 following the COVID-19 pandemic recession shock.
“The consensus forecast predicts another year of substantial economic expansion in Utah in 2022,” said Gardner Institute director Natalie Gochnour. “The most pressing internal risks will be growth-driven challenges like a limited labor supply, increasing costs, and housing affordability. Declining fertility, air quality, and water challenges will also add pressure. Despite these challenges, Utah’s fundamental advantages—a youthful demographic profile, economic diversity, a stable fiscal and regulatory environment, crossroads of the west location, global connections, and social cohesion—will continue to influence the state’s economic position in 2022 and beyond.”
Highlights from the report include the following:
Employment – The state added a record-breaking 72,500 jobs over the year, recovering the 20,900 jobs lost in 2020 and gaining an additional 51,600 new jobs. Nationally, the jobs base is still 3.3% smaller than pre-pandemic. In 2021, only Utah and Idaho had more jobs than in 2019. The state’s recovery has been widespread, but pockets of challenge remain. The leisure, hospitality and mining industries have yet to reach their 2019 peaks. Three counties—Garfield, San Juan, and Uintah—experienced unemployment rates in 2021 that were twice the statewide average.
Tourism – Though it has yet to fully add back all jobs lost in 2020, on account of both the severity of the loss and a tight labor market, the travel and tourism sector shone bright in 2021. Despite operating under pandemic conditions and international travel restrictions, Utah ski resorts experienced a record number of skier visits during the 2020- 21 season. Preliminary data suggest that visitors to Utah’s state and national parks also hit a record high in 2021.
Housing and Construction – Net in-migration reached a 16-year high in 2021, with nearly 35,000 new residents moving in from out of state. Population growth, combined with job and wage growth and low interest rates, fueled the ongoing real estate and construction boom. The value of nonresidential construction reached a new peak of $2.7 billion, and builders permitted a record 35,500 new dwelling units, despite supply-chain challenges and price pressures. Strong demand continues to boost home prices, which increased a never experienced 23.5% over the year.
The Economic Report to the Governor is prepared by the Utah Economic Council and is a collaborative endeavor of the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business and Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.
In addition to the report, the Gardner Institute released a companion piece titled Utah Informed: Visual Intellection for 2022. Utah Informed is a collection of tables, charts, ideas, and schematics designed to inform Utahns on the latest compelling trends and to spur innovative ideas. The Gardner Institute publishes Utah Informed annually in partnership with the Salt Lake Chamber.