Utah halfway to governor's goal of 100,000 jobs

State officials highlight Utah's job growth with goal of adding 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah is on track to add 100,000 jobs within three years, Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday, reporting on a promise he made in early 2012.

Herbert stopped at Exelis Aerostructures, which makes carbon-fiber parts for aircraft, to promote Utah's economy, which ranks 34th among the states in output.

Herbert often repeats Utah's top rankings by business magazines. Forbes magazine recently declared Utah the best state for business for a third year in a row, a fact Herbert cited Thursday. He doesn't, however, mention Utah's less stellar rankings — wage rates are unexceptional, Utah spends less than almost all other states on public education, and four other states have lower unemployment rates.

Still, things are looking up. Exelis has been adding jobs at a rate of about 100 a year, mostly manufacturing lightweight composite parts for commercial and military aircraft, said Mike Blair, vice president and general manager in Utah for the McLean, Va.-based contractor.

Exelis has 475 employees in Utah and does business with more than 350 that together employ 8,000 people, officials said.

Herbert said he challenged business and industry leaders to create 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days and he is more than pleased with the progress.

"I hope people are paying attention. The economy can recover. It is recovering," said Herbert, who noted Utah's unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6 percent from 8.3 percent since he took office in 2009, and the state economy was growing at a rate of 4 percent a year.

He said political skeptics doubted the goal could be reached — and he expects to exceed it.

By many measures, Utah is performing well, especially among technology companies. Utah promotes itself as Silicon Slopes because of nine ski areas within an hour of Salt Lake City, and many of the companies praise Utah's outdoor life.

A tech corridor running from the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy to Provo has added 24,000 jobs since January, said Michael Sullivan, a spokesman for the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

"We do a number of things to help business, but mainly it's about getting out of the way," said Spencer Eccles, Herbert's chief economic developer.

Utah has 1.2 million nonfarm jobs, more than Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming or Idaho, but fewer than Arizona or Colorado, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It added 34,100 jobs, an increase of 2.7 percent, from May 2012 to May 2013, the bureau said.

Herbert used a different timeframe to report that Utah had added 63,600 jobs since January 2012. Sullivan said those figures come from employment numbers compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services from payroll reports that employers submit monthly.

Hourly earnings average $22.80 in Utah, which is greater than in Nevada or New Mexico but less than in Arizona or, notably, Colorado, where wages average $25.46, according to the bureau.

Herbert cited different statistics to report that people in Utah "are making more money" with personal income rising at an annual rate of 5.8 percent.

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