I’m often asked to speak about the state of Utah’s economy.

It’s a topic I love addressing and I am always happy to share what we measure to determine how well Utah's economy performs. For example, we look at the unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, GINI Coefficient, Hatchman Index, GDP growth, and other metrics to track the strength of our economy.  As importantly, I love sharing why we tend to measure well; in many instances, we perform highly as a direct result of our demographic strengths, our cultural particularities, and our business-friendly mentality. 

Although it’s interesting to discuss where we excel, what tends to generate the most conversation is a discussion on our headwinds. I spend a lot of time thinking about risk factors or areas where we fall short because that’s where we can unlock additional opportunity and growth. If you’ve heard me speak, then you know that there are three things that give me pause, including access to skilled talent, rising costs, and our ties to the national economy. Happily, our partner organizations are trying to proactively mitigate some of those moderating factors. 

Although I’m generally upbeat about the state of our economy and our economic future, I recently received a briefing from an international consulting firm’s public practice group. Their conclusion is that the state is doing well, but there are a few metrics they shared with me that will now make it onto my sub-list of headwinds. 

While our labor force participation rate is high (we rank 6th against all states), we have significant room for improvement in our gender and racial parity in both the workforce and with respect to educational attainment.  If we could enact programs to connect more women and historically underrepresented groups to educational and employment opportunities, we could make a dent in our talent issues and have more productivity in our workforce. This is one way we could grow our economy from within. I will look forward to working with our partner organizations to put our best thinking towards how we can engage better on these issues. I believe they are fundamental to maintaining our strong GINI coefficient and to efficiently unleashing more economic power in our state.