Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Show Me the Economy

Mark Knold, Supervising Economist 

“The government knows everything about everyone.”

 Fortunately, that statement is not true. Yet society still looks to the government to provide answers to comprehensive and complex questions that have their foundation within individual decisions and activities. One subject frequently directed toward the government is individual-level information about the economy — particularly, what occupations are in demand, what occupations pay well and have lucrative outlooks, and ultimately, what occupation(s) should I build my career upon?

It takes the accumulation of a wide array of individual information to answer these questions. Employers provide the foundation information about the occupations they employ. Jobs are held by individuals, but employers provide the profile information about the job itself, not any particular individual.

Since society desires to profile such a broad spectrum of the economy — occupational profiles and the occupational distribution within the economy — only government is in the unique position to collect, analyze and provide answers for said desire. Yet, no government program or regulatory agency mandates any comprehensive occupational reporting from individuals or businesses. Therefore, government attempts to fill the void with an ongoing, robust and voluntary survey of employers — a survey where employers are asked to provide details about their various occupations; including descriptions, quantities, wages/salaries and location. Through this survey emerges an occupational portrait of an economy.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) structures and funds the survey, yet the individual states conduct the survey. Under BLS administration, all states use the same methodology; therefore, occupational profiles are comparable across states.

Through this survey, analysts discover how industries are populated with various occupations. Accountant is an occupation, yet accountants can be found across many different industries. Other occupations may be more exclusive to certain industries; for example, doctors are largely found only in the healthcare industry. One of the survey’s products is that industries can be profiled with their general mix of occupations. This is called an industry’s occupational staffing pattern.

This brings us back to the original questions: what occupations are in demand, what occupations pay well and have lucrative outlooks, and ultimately, what occupation(s) should I build my career upon? The foundation is to make informed forecasts about how industries will expand/contract over the next 10 years. By applying existing occupational staffing patterns to each industry’s projected change, a trained economic analyst can then make an extrapolation about how occupations will correspondingly increase/decrease. Knowledgeable analyst judgment further refines the occupational expectations, such as knowing an occupation will grow faster than in the past, with the result being a set of occupational projections that accumulate to profile a state or regional economy.

A new set of occupational projections are done every two years to keep the information fresh even though economies do not change dramatically in short order. Because of slow change, updated occupational projects generally continue the overall message of preceding occupational projections. But economies do modify with time, and therefore, subtle changes will arise with each new set of occupational projections.

Utah’s most recent occupational projections are found here: These projections look forward to the year 2024.

The occupational profile is structured from the general to the detailed, mimicking the structure of a family tree. First, broad occupational categories are defined, such as management or healthcare occupations; then, subcategories are defined; and finally, individual occupations are defined. Individual occupations are the heart of the occupational projections. But overall patterns and characteristics do emerge when observing the broader categories.

While a Utah statewide profile leads the way, Utah’s local economies are not homogenous; therefore, nine Utah subregions are also profiled. Due to confidentiality restraints and statistical reliability, the amount of occupations available will diminish the smaller a subregion; but, occupations comprising the backbone of a regional economy will be available.

Eastern Region Highlights

Scott Smith, Regional Economist

The Eastern Region labor market is dominated by resource extraction industries. Roughly 15 percent of all 2014 jobs (the base year for the projections) are counted in the mining sector. A further 4 percent are involved in the short haul trucking industry — businesses that are almost exclusively hauling coal, oil and gas-related products. Alternately, a little more than half the jobs in the Eastern Region are located in the oil-rich Uintah Basin. Employment in Uintah and Duchesne counties is highly dependent on the price of oil and subject to the volatility of the commodity cycle. It is an understatement to note that the oil and gas industry is currently in a slump. In addition, Carbon and Emery counties both have a relatively large number of active coal mines, an industry facing its own challenges.

Given these headwinds, Eastern Region employment is projected to grow by only 0.8 percent annually through 2024. Total oil and gas employment is projected to grow at 0.1 percent annually. Coal mining employment is expected to decline by 1.3 percent annually. Construction, which is currently 6 percent of the total jobs, is naturally expected to follow this trend and is projected to increase by only 0.3 percent annually.

Table 1 shows the top six sectors in terms of new jobs. These 2,546 jobs comprise a little more than 60 percent of the projected Eastern Region total.

 With the exception of Junior Colleges and Restaurants and Eating Places, growth is expected to be sluggish.

Occupations related to the restaurant industry are expected to add the greatest number of net new jobs. Combined food preparation/serving workers and waiters/waitresses are expected to add more than 13 percent of net new jobs over the forecast horizon. The entry level salary for these jobs range from $16,888 to $17,010.
While cashiers are expected to add a substantial number of jobs annually, the total number of jobs is expected to shrink over the forecast horizon. The high number of annual openings is entirely a function of turnover. Entry level cashier jobs in the Eastern Region pay $17,220.

Heavy truck drivers are expected to add almost 5 percent of net new jobs. These jobs pay $39,400 to start and require some post-secondary education.

For occupations requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, the teaching occupations generate the largest number of net new positions. These jobs are projected to comprise 10 percent of all net new jobs. The vast number of these jobs are involved in primary or secondary education and start around the mid-$30,000.