Utah: Between the Rocks, a Good Place

How does Utah Get 6.0% Unemployment?

This weekend, my college buddy John Gurney (an economist by training and CPA by practice) posted some footnotes under that title on his “econscius” blog.  In short, Mr. Gurney observes:

  • Utah’s 6.0% unemployment rate (July 2012) compares favorably to regional powerhouse California (10.7%) and neighbor Nevada (12.0%).
  • Utah was the 3rd fastest growing state 2000-2010.
  • Utah has a bunch of other statistics that support his point that it is a “business friendly” state, to which I would agree.

So what?  The post lays out the facts and lets you draw your own conclusions.  Just the facts, ma’am, but it got me thinking.

Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah data reveal unprecedented depths of recession job losses; Youthful workers who stopped looking masked magnitude of unemployment.”

The first thought when I hear Utah is the Mormon church.  Yes, no, maybe the LDS provides the secret sauce in Utah’s Big Mo, but the Saints go marching on across the west, with significant presence in Idaho (7.5% unemployment), Arizona (8.3%), etc.  The church does provide many members with international experience through mission work, which may give Utah employers a leg up in the international marketplace.

My second Utah thought is mountains and deserts and Public Lands.  Moab and Park City.  Arches to Zion.  The Associated Press recently reported in a story picked up by the LA Times that “the outdoor industry and related services represent a sizeable chunk of Utah’s income — roughly $4 billion a year, or 5 percent of the state’s gross product.”

Utah, like most Western states, has a love-hate relationship with Public Lands, especially those controlled by distant federal bureaucrats in Washington, DC.  Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, “a staunch supporter mining, oil and gas development” is a soldier of the old Sagebrush Rebellion seeking more local control.  On the other hand, groups like Envision Utah, lauded by former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening at the Western Planner Conference, have sought to bring disparate interests in Western states together to balance conservation and development.

Salt Lake Tribune profile on heavy waxy crude oil development in the Uinta Basin around Vernal, Utah.

Ever since one-armed John Wesley Powell trekked through the Canyonlands after the US Civil War, public and private interests have engaged in a tug-of-war for the soul of the interior West.  Coal, oil and natural gas provide the resources to drive our domestic economy and minimize reliance on fickle foreign sources of energy.  Yet the natural environment provides the energy to sooth the savage soul, and many (many) Americans will pay well for access to wilderness.

Maybe Theodore Roosevelt, with his experience up in the Dakota badlands, said it best:  “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”


This entry was posted in Economy, Policy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.