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Utah's low unemployment rate presents new problems for state businesses

3/15/2018 - SALT LAKE CITY, Utah(News4Utah) For a long time now, Salt Lake City and Utah has boasted one of the country's lowest unemployment rates, sitting around 3%. Most cities across the country would love to have bragging rights like that! But, it also presents a challenge that the state needs to solve quickly. Jake Maxwell, the new Workforce Development Manager for the Department of Economic Development, joined Emily Clark, to talk about what those issue are. But first, we learned about Maxwell's new position.

This is a new position for the department. They have identified the need for a point person to coordinate local workforce efforts.

Maxwell says people are competing for talent in general, and when you have a really low unemployment rate and a stronger economy, finding skilled workers is tough. The department has the potential to lose business development opportunities because of low unemployment.

Companies looking to relocate have expressed concern over finding the workforce to fill their hundreds or thousands of jobs.

He says the feedback from our local businesses is that they are still not finding skilled labor to fill open jobs, and every business has a unique set of workforce challenges. Maxwell says he will be providing more one-on-one assistance with business owners, to help them solve their workforce needs, and connecting them with existing resources they may not have been aware of yet. Maxwell also says we need to do a better job of making sure our business needs are being communicated to the programs and services providing the workforce training.

Some industries in general are seeing more need than others. Much of these job gains continue to be in sectors like Hospitality, Construction, and Trade Transportation and Utilities, and Financial Services.

The industry really driving Salt Lake City's growth right now is tech. Jobs and wages for this industry increased in 2017. The problem, Maxwell says, is the job growth may actually slow down if they can't find and train workers for those jobs.

A big focus is on good quality, high paying jobs for Salt Lake City.

There is a short term aspect to all of this, but there is also a long term challenge. Maxwell says they are matching demand to local talent through existing partnerships like Salt Lake City Community College, who is opening a new Westpointe Workforce Training Center, this Spring

Talent Ready Utah and its Career Pathways Programs are designed to bridge the gap between education and employers to train for careers in good paying skilled jobs like aerospace, IT, diesel tech, and medical. The department wants to make sure they are giving Salt Lake City's business owners the help they need in finding skilled workers now and in the near future.

For more information, you can visit SLCGov.com/Economic-Development.

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