Blog Post

Why Utah is a High Growth State

By: James Wood

Economic growth is not a simple concept.  More than one Nobel Prize has been awarded to economists for their work on growth theory.

[1]  Even today what drives economic growth, how it’s measured, and what we can expect in the future are still vigorously debated. These debates focus on such topics as innovation and technology, globalization, capital/labor ratio, worker productivity, the measure or mis-measure of Gross Domestic Product, and even changes in life expectancy.  These debates are set in the broad context of the U.S. economy with generally little reference to state economies.  Meanwhile discussions of economic growth at the state level are typically framed narrowly and limited, most often to a single measure – changes in employment.  By this measure, Utah performs very well when compared to other states. From 1960 to 2015, the average annual growth rate for nonfarm employment in Utah was 3.05 percent. Only Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Alaska have higher rates of long-term job growth (see Figure 1). Utah has also steadily improved its ranking in employment growth since 1960; most notably from 1990 to the present.  Over the past 25 years, the state has consistently ranked in the top five states in rate of job growth (see Table 1).

Figure 1: 1960-2015 Average Annual Nonfarm Employment Growth