Blog Post

1/6/15: Required Reading: The best source for information on the Utah economy

By: Natalie Gochnour

Originally published in Utah Business

The New Year is a great time to take stock and learn new things. I am often asked what is the best source for information about the Utah economy. Thanks to a wonderful collaboration between the David Eccles School of Business and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, you can learn all of the latest and greatest facts about the Utah economy in a single report. The 2015 Economic Report to the Governor, released this month, provides the single best compendium of information about Utah demographics, employment, income, taxes, exports, prices, major industries and other indicators. If you want to gain a better understanding about the Utah economy, go online and download your copy today.

Just to whet your appetite, here are some of my favorite factoids included in this year’s report:

Utah is moving up in size.

Many think of Utah as a small state, but 18 other states (including the District of Columbia) are smaller than Utah. In fact, Utah just passed Kansas as the 33rd largest state in the country. At 2.9 million people Utah is larger than every New England state, but Massachusetts, and larger than Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico and West Virginia, to name just a few. The next state we will leapfrog will be Arkansas. Currently trailing by just 58,500 people (roughly the size of South Jordan), Utah will outrank Arkansas by as early as 2015.

Births trump in-migration.

Net in-migration is the norm in Utah. Every year people move in and move out, but in net terms Utah has experienced in-migration for 27 of the past 35 years. The last time Utah experienced net out-migration was in 2009 at the peak of the Great Recession and that was just a sliver (325 people). Other than this small blip, the only other period of net out-migration in recent history was during a particularly rough patch in the 1980s when we had seven consecutive years. But don’t be confused. Utah’s real source of growth is ourselves. Last year Utah births added 51,721 residents and 80 percent of our growth came from natural increase (births minus deaths).

Doubling up.

Household size in Utah is not only the largest in the country, but on the rise. Persons per household in Utah increased from 3.10 in 2010 to 3.17 in 2013. This may not seem like a lot, but statically speaking it is a big deal. Most analysts attribute this to the “double-bunking” effect caused by the Great Recession. Think about your own household or those in your neighborhood. Many young adults are living longer with their parents. There are also many “boomerang kids”—children who left home, only to return. This drop in new household formation has a softening effect on Utah’s homebuilding industry and is a trend to watch.

Hong Kong emerges as Utah