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Executive confidence dips yet job growth continues to rebound

Salt Lake City — The Salt Lake Chamber’s CEOutlook released today shows forward progress in job growth but a slight dip in confidence levels from 2021-Q1. While executive confidence remains high in Utah, the taper-off signals some caution for the short-term recovery. The most prominent concerns center around supply chain disruptions leading to increased cost of materials and overall inflation. 

“Utah’s workforce participation remains high with the unemployment rate at 2.6 percent, ranking second nationally and half the broader 5.4 percent US,” says Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “This good news comes with the challenges of growth, meaning tight labor markets and increased cost of services across industries. Consistent immigration to Utah is catalyzing a housing and construction industry boom, and the endurance and response of our construction industry have made it currently Utah’s fastest-growing major industry. Over the past couple of years, Utah’s construction companies have filled 13,300 new jobs.”

The CEOutlook is a statewide economic survey of Utah business executives conducted by the Salt Lake Chamber in partnership with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.

The survey shows CEOs are expecting tougher economic conditions in the next six months with individual industries facing a drop in expectations from the previous quarter. The major headwinds constraining expectations and potential growth center around labor availability and inflation coupled with commodity pricing pressure. A majority of respondents (78 percent) see these two risk factors as a troubling undercurrent to business growth.  

“Utah’s economic expansion remains on track, even as Covid continues to hamper recovery efforts across the nation,” says Natalie Gochnour, director of Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and chief economist at the Salt Lake Chamber. “It’s reasonable to project that Utah will remain a top-performing state for growth, but risks to the outlook remain. We will be watching three indicators carefully: consumer confidence, Covid health outcomes for children, and price volatility. Despite these headwinds, Utah’s strengths coupled with business, consumer, and employee adaptations have kept us in a nation-leading position.”

While some signs point to a positive outlook, the growing backlog of container ships unable to port in part because of labor shortages cast a shadow over the recovery. The supply chain crunch is hurting consumers as business faces increased cost and uncertainty in delivery times for products. Other respondents noted the water crisis, shrinking labor pool of truck drivers, and continued housing affordability challenges. 

To view the full 2021-Q2 report and to learn more about the CEOutlook, visit slchamber.com/resources/ceoutlook.