Utah labor shortage affects mostly lower skilled workers
SALT LAKE CITY — The ongoing labor shortage affecting Utah is affecting employers of the least-skilled and lowest-paid workers in the state.
Employers struggle to hire low skill workers
One side of the labor market is feeling the heaviest impact of the labor shortage right now.
“It’s not the architecture firms that are running at half-speed or closing down, it’s the restaurants,” said Mark Knold, chief economist with the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Knold explains the hospitality industry is suffering the most and it’s all related to the pandemic.
“It’s those jobs with the most customer interaction where you end up with trepidation,” said Knold.
Lower-skilled and lower-educated workers lost jobs more often than those with higher education and higher skills. Knold says many of them are anxious about returning to work where they have to be around more people.
When it comes to helping people find quality work it’s not just about finding a job. We offer services to help people find work and maintain financial stability through assistance programs. Learn more at https://t.co/JPVVqBydAU. #WkDevWorks #WkDevMonth #WorkforceDevelopmentMonth pic.twitter.com/Jce0ZcsFSW
— Workforce Services (@JobsUT) September 30, 2021
Furthermore, he says the labor market is not responding quickly to the sudden reopening of the economy.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the market for higher-skilled jobs is still tight. Many of these industries were not as heavily disrupted by the pandemic, according to Knold.
Utah labor has higher wage growth
Despite it being harder for businesses to hire lower-skilled workers, it’s that end of the spectrum seeing the most wage growth.
Employers are raising pay to attract more applicants and effectively lowering the ongoing wage gap.
“It’s probably a good thing. It’s a long-time coming,” said Knold.
Meanwhile, pay on the higher-skilled side of the economy is growing much slower.
2021 has largely been a year of recovery, with many industries experiencing growth back toward their pre-pandemic numbers. As we try to find a new normal¹ amidst ongoing pandemic concerns, there’s a general recognition that a few things may have permanently altered.
— Workforce Services (@JobsUT) September 28, 2021
Utah doing better than much of the country
Knold believes it is a great time to be looking for a job, especially for those with less education.
“We actually have an economy here in the state of Utah that is bigger now than it was before the pandemic,” Knold said. “Very few, if any, other states can say that. They’re still trying to just get back to the levels they were at before the pandemic hit.”
He anticipates Utah’s job economy will rebound over the coming months. Knold also anticipates wages will continue to grow.
“That in of itself will draw more people into the job market,” he said.
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