Sanpete County may have fared better than many other Utah counties in its recovery from initial COVID pandemic impacts, say officials from the Department of Workforce Services (DWS), but not all is as it seems.
“Insulated by its economy’s low dependence on tourism, Sanpete County was experiencing job growth as early as third quarter 2020,” says Lecia Langston, DWS economist.
“In tandem, its unemployment rate has to fall as first-time claims for unemployment insurance have contracted. As elsewhere, stimulus dollars have continued to pump Sanpete County’s sales. All in all, Sanpete County maintained one of the healthier economies.”
Langston says it is important to note, however, that some of the positive economic growth being reported is due to incorrect data in financial services employment.
“On the surface, Sanpete seemed to suffer fewer COVID-19 employment effects than other counties,” Langston says. “However, roughly 200 financial sector jobs previously misreported in another area are propping up Sanpete County’s 2020 number somewhat.”
That isn’t to say things are still not going well overall, Langston says. Despite the misreporting, Sanpete’s labor market is expanding; even after correcting the bad data, according to Langston, the county added 249 new jobs for a growth rate of about 2.8 percent, but those numbers could have been higher if a few labor market areas didn’t suffer as little as the others.
“Retail trade, professional and business services, construction and manufacturing provided the primary impetus for employment expansion,” Langston says. “However, losses in private education and local government [which includes public education] put a damper on overall growth.”
Compared to the state as a whole, which has a 1.1 percent job growth rate, and the nation as a whole, which is negative 4.4 percent, Sanpete is looking pretty good.
Same as Utah average
Langston’s data on unemployment claims for Sanpete show the county at the same 2.7 percent rate for first-time claims as the Utah average, which is higher than it has typically been in the past in comparison to the state numbers.
“So far in 2021,” construction and professional business services [which includes temp agencies] have produced the highest number of new claims, followed by retail trade and education/healthcare/social services,” Langston says.
Langston says Sanpete County’s average monthly wage showed a “significant” 8 percent increase between the fourth quarters of 2019 and 2020 as the result of notable year-end bonuses in several industries.
Gross taxable sales have received a nice 36.8 percent increase according to DWS numbers.
“Retail trade sales proved the dominant factor in this astounding increase,” Langston says. “Sales gains in building materials/gardening stores, non-store retailers [such as Amazon] and general merchandise stores [such as Wal-Mart] proved particularly robust.”