Utah’s economy is making a huge comeback, but workers still needed

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Economic experts tell ABC 4 the state’s economy has almost fully recovered from what it was before the Covid-19 pandemic began, however, there are still thousands of jobs open with nobody to fill them.

The state is in a fantastic spot, but the pandemic is still causing people to question whether they want to get back into the labor force.

The Pie Hole in downtown Salt Lake City has increased its wages by almost 100% to attract more employees to fill its dwindling staff. 

Thousands of Utahns are still out of work during the pandemic, but there are signs everywhere that say now hiring from the local sushi spot to the pizza parlor.

“It is a bit of a revolving door,” said Pie Hole shift leader Damon Larsen.

The Pie Hole is going through the revolving door right now.

The late-night hot spot has been severely understaffed since the start of the pandemic.

“Things have changed with the pay increase so I feel like a lot of people will be staying,” said Larsen.

Now the pay increase at Pie Hole is about double what it was.

Employees used to make minimum wage to $11 an hour but are now starting at $17 an hour and can make more in a leadership position.

Larsen said the change reignited his love for the job.

“It was kind of up in the air, but now it’s like I have some stability and I am comfortable and I am happy with my paychecks,” said Larsen.

Unemployment pandemic paychecks stopped coming in for Utahns back in June and nationally it ended Monday.

“There was a little bit of a gamble that played out for the state of Utah in that regard,” said Utah Department of Workforce Service Chief Economic Officer Mark Knold.

Knold said the economy was in a good spot before COVID since Utah is the youngest state in the nation by median age, and the economy here opened back up before most other states.

He clarified that that helped propel the labor force back to where almost where it was before COVID.

A flood of jobs came open and you do not get a flood of people coming back to the job market,” said Knold. “It takes more time for people to connect with the job market.”

Knold adds COVID concerns and childcare issues are keeping people from entering the job market.

Utah’s unemployment rate is at 2.7% according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services; before the pandemic, it was 2.5%.

Knold added the lower-skilled and lower-paying jobs increased their wages because they need workers and they need to stay competitive.

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