Latest COVID-19 Spike Could Slow Utah Economic Boom, New Report Says

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah’s economic boom could slow as COVID-19 continues to spread. New data from the David Eccles School of Business shows that August is turning out to be a slower month for economic growth in Utah.

Five hundred Utah households were surveyed in August. Eccles economic and business surveys show these households will spend around 2% more over the next three months compared to the same period in 2019. Yet the report released on Thursday indicates that number is down from the previous year. 6% spending increase reported by respondents in June 2021.

In addition, the 1,000 companies surveyed reported declining inflation and a potential “skills gap” in the workforce.

“The slower growth in spending suggests some concern and increased uncertainty about economic growth going forward,” write Mac Gaulin report authors Nathan Seegert and Mu-Jeung Yang of the David Eccles School of Business.

Slower spending is observed in three areas: e-commerce, electronics and home food. These three areas have experienced above-average results over the past six months. Consumers also saw higher prices for food, utilities and entertainment in August compared to June as house prices remain high.

Nearly 30% of those polled say they are at least quite likely to quit their jobs in the next three months, according to the report. The main reasons included “low pay” and “better opportunities elsewhere”, such as stability, flexibility, benefits and remote working.

Businesses surveyed also reported a significant slowdown in August compared to June. The Eccles report says this is likely due to increased uncertainty around COVID-19 and the delta variant, and the related uncertainty in consumer demand.

With the exception of the construction industry, the inflation rate decreased compared to July. Most businesses expect steady growth over the next year.

Additionally, employers who responded to the survey say they are always looking for qualified candidates. When asked about a range of basic and social skills they look for in their employees, companies said job applicants typically have around 80% of the basic skills employers look for. According to the Eccles report, the “skills gap” between the needs of employers and potential employees has implications for job creation and wages.

If they found candidates with all the skills they were looking for, companies say they would be willing to hire 10% more employees.

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