Latest COVID-19 spike may be slowing Utah’s economic boom, says new report

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah’s economic boom may be slowing down as the COVID-19 continues to spread. New data from the David Eccles School of Business shows August is proving to be a slower month for economic growth in Utah.

Five hundred households in Utah were surveyed in August. The Eccles Economic and Business Surveys show these households will spend around 2% more in the next three months versus the same period in 2019. Yet the report released Thursday says that number is down from the 6% spending increase respondents reported in June 2021.

Additionally, the 1,000 businesses surveyed reported a decrease in inflation and a potential ‘skill gap’ in the workforce.

“The slower spending growth suggests some concern and increased uncertainty about economic growth in the future,” write report authors Mac Gaulin, Nathan Seegert, and Mu-Jeung Yang of the David Eccles School of Business.

Slower spending is being seen in three areas: e-commerce, electronics, and food at home. These three areas have experienced higher than average expected over the last six months. Consumers have also seen higher prices for food, utilities, and entertainment in August compared to June as housing prices remain high.

Nearly 30% of respondents say they are at least somewhat likely to quit their jobs in the next three months, the report says. The top reasons included “low pay” and “better opportunities elsewhere,” like stability, flexibility, benefits, and working remote.

Surveyed businesses also reported a significant slowdown in August compared to June. The Eccles report says this is likely due to increased uncertainty around COVID-19 and the delta variant, and the related uncertainty in consumer demand.

With the exception of the construction industry, the inflation rate decreased from July. Most businesses expect steady growth over the next year.

Additionally, employers responding to the survey say they are still seeking qualified candidates. When asked about a series of basic and social skills they are looking for in employees, businesses said job candidates generally have about 80% of the basic skills employers are looking for. According to the Eccles report, the ‘skill gap’ between employer needs and potential employees has implications for job creation and wages.

If they found candidates with all of the skills they were looking for, businesses report they would be willing to hire 10% more employees.

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