Friday, April 7, 2017

Recent News for the Utah Coal Fired Electricity Market

PacifiCorp has just released its 2017 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The IRP “presents the company’s plans to provide reliable and reasonably priced service to its customers. The analysis supporting this plan helps PacifiCorp, its customers, and its regulators understand the effect of both near-term and long term resource decisions on customer bills, the reliability of electric service PacifiCorp customers receive, and changes to emissions from the generation sources used to serve customers.”

The IRP has a 20-year forecast horizon and encompasses their entire service area, including Utah.
From a Castle Country labor market perspective, the IRP is particularly useful for deriving the utilities’ outlook toward the local coal-fired power plants. Not only would closure of the generating stations result in a job loss at the plants, it would also cause losses in the mining sector. The vast majority of Utah coal is used for electricity generation.

Newspaper accounts have emphasized that the majority of power expansion is from renewable energy sources in Wyoming. However, the biggest news in the document is the downward revision in prior forecasts for demand. On average, forecasted system load is down 5.3 percent when compared to the last IRP. Utah demand is anticipated to increase at less than 1 percent annually due to decreased industrial demand and retail consumer efficiencies.

The plan does not anticipate the installation of catalytic reduction equipment in Utah. Avoiding installation of this equipment will save customers hundreds of millions of dollars. It also notes that the EPA requirement to have this equipment installed is currently under appeal in the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The IRP presents the requirement being upheld as a downside risk to the forecast and economic viability of coal generated power in Utah.

Currently, coal accounts for around 50 percent of PacifiCorp’s generating capacity. While the plan does not contemplate the early retirement of Utah coal-fired capacity, it also does not envision an expansion. Coal is currently at a competitive disadvantage to natural gas. Further, there are renewable fuel mandates in the Pacific coast states. The end-of-life dates for Utah capacity are given in following table.

Assumed End-of-Life Year
Hunter 2
Hunter 3
Huntington 1
Huntington 2

 Note that PacifiCorp does not own the Intermountain Power Project (IPP) in Millard County. This plant is owned by the Intermountain Power Agency and exports roughly 75 percent of its electricity to Southern California, principally Los Angeles. That contract was set to expire in 2017. However, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) modified this contract in 2013, to enable the city to stop relying on coal-fired power no later than 2025. The modifications to the contract require permitting and construction of a natural gas plant at the IPP site to begin no later than 2020. However, there has been no recent news on the permitting process. In a 2016 compliance filing with the California Energy Commission, the City of Los Angeles noted that “The ability to meet this date is contingent upon several factors, including permitting, material procurement and final concurrence of all participants. The commercial operation date may be delayed due to circumstances beyond LADWP’s control.”


Monday, March 27, 2017

Utah's Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rates

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for all Utah counties have been posted online here.

Each month, these rates are posted the Monday following the Unemployment Rate Update for Utah.

For more information about seasonally adjusted rates, read a DWS analysis here.

Next update scheduled for April 24th.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Utah's Employment Situation for February 2017

Utah's Employment Situation for February 2017 has been released on the web.

Find the Current Economic Situation in its entirety here.

For charts and tables, including County Employment, go to the Employment and Unemployment page.

Next update scheduled for April 21st, 2017.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Better, Faster, Smarter... Check out our new website design!

Go to: JOBS.UTAH.GOV/WI to check it out

Information is the treasure of the current age. The instant access to information since the advent of the Internet has transformed societies in ways that thousands of years prior had not. Information can lead to knowledge, and — with increased knowledge — better efficiencies and way of life. If information is vital, then the presentation of information has also risen to a prominent level. With this, the Utah Department of Workforce Services has made some organizational improvements to its economic webpages. Various economic data categories are not mutually exclusive, but we made an effort to compartmentalize economic data for a better organizational display and navigation. We also added a new feature area that taps into various national data elements and measurements from the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED), the database of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. FRED’s added value is national — and Utah — economic indicators. More on FRED’s contribution below.

Depending on the subject, economic data can be categorized as either broad or specific. For example, the demographic makeup of an area and how that impacts an economic structure is a broad-subject approach. Conversely, a current monthly snapshot of the Utah economy, its job growth and unemployment rate is a more specific observation. Our economic webpage has four “portals” through which to “categorize” and search for information. One portal is broad, while the other three are more specific in nature.

Topic Portals

The monthly employment profile just mentioned is a specific topic and gets its own “portal,” entitled Employment Update. Here, the most current Utah economic performance can be explored and summarized. The information found here is what often gets cited in the local news media in reference to the current Utah job performance and unemployment rate.

The second specific “portal” is labeled Local Insights. This is a quarterly profile of the Utah economy down to a county level. Each county is summarized with its own economic performance, including job growth, unemployment rate, housing starts, taxable sales and other profile variables. The common theme here is a county-specific approach.

The third specific “portal” is Reports and Analysis. Workforce Services’ economic forte is the labor market. Things over and above the everyday reporting on the labor market are presented here. Sometimes we do special economic studies, other times we will report on specific economic groups within the labor force, like women or veterans. Anything we do that is not an often repeated or ongoing report are grouped here.

The final “portal,” and possibly the one that will be most used, is labeled Economic Data. The core of our data collection and analysis is concentrated here. Employment data, occupational data, wage information and demographic profiles are just some of the major economic themes found in this area.

FRED's on site

As mentioned earlier, we have added an economic indicator area tapping into FRED, which is a massive compilation of economic data from various sources — primarily government statistical agencies, but also some nongovernmental organizations. Workforce Services economists have gone through the list and selected a handful of the most useful data series for gauging the performance of Utah’s macro economy and gaining insights into expected trends. Utah functions within the national economy, so the national economic indicators profiled here are intended to also be guiding influences on the Utah economy. These indicators include composite indexes; a recession probability indicator; leading indicators, such as construction permits and the yield curve; coincident indicators, such as real GDP and employment; and price indicators, such as the consumer price index, regional housing prices, and oil and gas prices. Each chart has a detailed description of what the data represent and how they may be useful.

Keeping relevant with the fast-changing pace of the Internet and data presentation is our goal at Workforce Services. We hope these changes help to better present our broad package of economic data offerings.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

How Business is Organized in Utah and in Castle Country

Utah has a diversified economy meaning employment is spread out across many industries. Some industries, like banking, tend to have many employees spread among many locations. Others, like hospitals, tend to cluster around a single location. “Mom and Pop” restaurants and law offices usually have one location and a small number of employees.The Department of Workforce Services has constructed an interactive data tool to flesh out these relationships. It uses data collected through Utah’s Unemployment Insurance system. This system produces a comprehensive tabulation of employment and wage information for workers covered by Utah Unemployment Insurance laws and Federal workers covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees program.

The program makes two key definitions important for this analysis:
  • A firm, or a company, is a business and may consist of one or more establishments, where each establishment may participate in different predominant economic activity. 
  • An establishment is an economic unit, such as a farm, mine, factory, or store that produces goods or provides services. It is typically at a single physical location address and engaged in one, or predominantly one type of economic activity for which a single industry classification may be applied. 
As an example, Wells Fargo is a firm. Its branch locations are establishments.

The visualization’s first tab makes an important generalization about where people work. A typical Utahn is employed at a large company and works at a location employing 20–250 people.

The second tab shows that larger locations generally pay more than smaller locations. The prominent exception, of course, is shown in the 1-4 employer category. Analyst speculate that the large average wage is due to tax reasons. Sometimes there is a financial advantage in a sole proprietor (which of course would report as one location only) claiming his/herself as an employee. Again, these sort of tax vehicles would benefit higher earning professionals.

Tab 3 shows the percentage of total wages and employment sorted by location size. As expected from the distribution of employment, the bulk of the state’s wages are paid by locations employing 20-250 people with a sizable contribution coming from locations employing more than 1000. However, locations employing more than 100 workers contribute five percent in wages more than their employment would suggest. Schools, universities, and hospitals would be included in this employment range and generally pay higher wages.

The fourth and last tab focuses on firms (companies) by time. Here the results are unambiguous; these firms employ the biggest share of workers. However, it is interesting to note that firms employing 10-49 employees rank third in terms of share. These firms are commonly thought of as small businesses.

Castle Country 

Because of confidentiality problems, it is problematic to separate firm data by county. Data is suppressed to protect the identity, or identifiable information, of cooperating employers. Most of the suppressed data are provided by or are substantially attributable to an individual employer. In many cases, suppressions may also be necessary for otherwise disclosable data that may be used to derive sensitive information from another industry or area. It is widely believed that employment in Castle Country is dominated by the coal industry. This is no longer the case. Coal mining, while still vital for the region, makes up only 7 percent of employment. However, in terms of wages, this industry is still the highest paying in the region.

An examination of the Average Monthly Wages by Establishment Size tab (Tab 2) for Carbon County shows that larger establishments tend to pay more than smaller establishments. Furthermore, the largest establishments in the county (more than 100 employees) pay decidedly more than their statewide counterparts. Those employing less than but 100 workers pay decidedly less than their statewide peers. One can infer that this this reflects the organization of coal mines in the county. This statistics for Emery County is only slightly different from Carbon County’s. Establishments employing more than 50 workers pay more than their statewide counterparts. This is likely the result of the existence of some smaller mines in Emery County. It is worth emphasizing that Castle Country establishments employing less than five people pay their workers substantially less than the same establishments statewide. Analysts speculate that this is because of the relative lack of small professional businesses in rural areas such as accounting and law firms.

The Quarterly Employment and Wages by Establishment Size (Tab 3) shows employment and wage share by location size. As noted above, locations with employment greater than 100 make up 45 percent of total state employment but contribute 50 percent of all wages. In Carbon County, locations employing more than 100 workers total 47 percent of employment but contribute 53 percent of county wages. The spread between wage and employment share in Emery County is an enormous 19 percentage points. This is by far the largest discrepancy in Eastern Utah, being more than three times greater than the second largest spread which is 6 points. The implication here is that coal mining (which tend to be larger establishments), provide the majority of the higher paying jobs in the county. On the small side of the spectrum, places of business with less than 10 employees make up 13 percent of statewide employment and contribute 12 percent of wages. In Carbon County, these establishments make up 16 percent of the employment base but only contribute 13 percent of wages. In Emery County these firms comprise 17 percent of total employment but only contribute 12 percent of total wages. This again is due to the relative scarcity of small professional firms in the Castle Country such as accounting and law firms

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Older Utahns in Carbon County

The Department of Workforce Services has just published an interactive graphic on older Utahns. Based on 2015 Census Bureau data, it allows researchers (and the simply curious) to “drill down” to the county level.

Roughly 15 percent of the state’s population is age 60 and older. Further, workers age 55 and older make up 17 percent of the labor force. As the population “greys”, the economic importance of older Utahns will naturally become of greater importance. The Deseret News recently reported that in 2015 there were 337 people in Utah over the age of 100. In 50 years, there will be nearly 7,000.

As an example of the information available and the potential for insights, this post will focus on Carbon County.

The visualization has six profile segmentations, each represented by a “tab” above the graphs that one can click on. The first tab is a statewide overview of Utahns age 60 and older. From this the reader can generalize that about half of older Utahns still receive taxable income (either passive or active) and/or retirement income. Around 5 percent qualify for some form of public assistance. The typical older Utahn owns his or her home, is married, and speaks English.

The second tab shows unemployment rates by county and age. Older working age Carbon County residents under age 65 have the same unemployment rate as their statewide counterparts. Unemployment is statistically zero in the ages 65-74 cohort and then balloons in the age 75 and older cohort. The last two rates are generated from a very small sample and should be ignored.

Tab three shows the complete employment status of the older population. With the exception of women in the ages 55-59 cohort, county participation rates are markedly lower than the state as a whole. This is a different pattern than that found in other eastern Utah counties; participation rates for men in the ages 55-59 cohort are usually higher than the statewide number. This may be due to problems associated with the coal mining industry.

The fourth tab shows the older population sorted by poverty level, which is $11,670 for an individual. Poverty is much more common in the county than it is statewide. This is especially true for residents in the ages 55-64 cohort. The rates of poverty are closer to the statewide statistics for older cohorts. This is likely because these individuals qualify for social security. As expected, the proportion of residents at the highest end of the scale (more than 400 percent of poverty or $46,680) are less in the county than statewide.

The fifth tab displays insurance coverage differentiated by educational attainment for older Utahns. Note that there is no display for persons without coverage; due to Medicare, that number is statistically zero for both Carbon County and the state as a whole for persons over age 65. The proportion of county residents with private health coverage is roughly the same as the statewide rate. However, the educational attainment of those residents is much lower than the statewide profile. Analysts speculate that these persons probably are beneficiaries of union health plans. This is unique for Utah. In general, private insurance coverage correlates with education.

The sixth and final tab shows disability rates for older Utahns. Disability rates for Carbon County residents of both sexes are markedly higher than are the rates for older Utahns statewide. Given the absence of substantial medical infrastructure, one may assume that disabled county residents would leave the area and therefore lower the disability rate. This is the experience of other eastern Utah counties. However, Carbon County residents are sufficiently close to the medical infrastructure in Utah County and presumably commute.

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.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Veterans in Carbon County!/publish-confirm

The Department of Workforce Services has just published an interactive graphic on Utah veterans. Based on 2015 Census Bureau data, it allows researchers (and the simply curious) to “drill down” to veteran profiles at the county level.

The department pays special attention to veterans for a number of reasons. Obviously, the nation is deeply obligated to veterans for their service. Veterans also make up almost 5 percent of Utah’s population and roughly half of veterans are of working age. Veterans have a higher disability proportion than the general public and sometimes have difficulty adapting their military skills to civilian uses. Given the potential for lost productivity, it also makes economic sense for society to concentrate on this population.

As an example of the information available and the potential for insights, this post will focus on Carbon County veterans. The veteran’s visualization profile has five profile segmentations, each represented by a “tab” above the graphs that one can click on. The first tab is a broad overview of veterans statewide.

The second tab details Carbon County veterans versus Utah veterans as a whole. Carbon County veterans in the 55-64 year-old age group (known as a cohort) participate in the labor force at a much lower rate than veterans in the state as a whole. While a larger part of this discrepancy can be explained by low participation rates in Carbon County as a whole, it is puzzling that county veterans participate less in the labor force than county nonveterans. This differs than the statewide profile; Utah veterans are roughly as likely to be in the labor force as nonveterans.

The third tab shows median income for Carbon County by sex and veteran status. The data for male veterans is consistent (although at a lower income) with the experience of veterans statewide; veterans earn more their nonveteran counterparts. Likewise, female veterans earn more than their nonveteran counterparts but less than male counterparts.

The fourth tab shows veterans by era of service in detail.

The fifth tab shows veterans by educational attainment and veteran’s status. Carbon County veterans have roughly as much post-high school education as nonveterans. However, Carbon County veterans have fewer bachelors degrees than veterans statewide. This is usually a result of the supply of jobs in a particular area. Carbon County veterans have more associates degrees than veterans statewide because of the requirements of the coal industry.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Age and Employment in Castle Country

People work (or choose not to work), in part, depending on where they live and how old they are. People also prefer to live in different places. Factors such as employment opportunities, amenities, or even family ties dictate to such. In like fashion, some industries attract a certain age demographic and are necessarily located in certain places.

The US Census Bureau tracks data that can shed light on some of this variation. It allows economists to analyze the differences in age groups in different areas and industries.

The graph below shows employment by age in Utah, Castle Country, (Carbon and Emery counties), and the Castle Country mining sector and utility sectors. For accounting purposes, all extractive industries are shown but the overwhelming majority of these jobs are in coal mining. Mining and utilities were singled out due to its prominence in the Castle Country’s economic foundation.

The age make-up of the mining and utilities sectors is different from Utah and the Castle Country profile. A striking difference is in the 16-24 year age grouping (known as a cohort). Both areas have more workers in this cohort than in the industry. The relative lack of the 16-24 cohort in the two industries could be explained by the long term decline of the two sectors; industries in contraction do not tend to hire new entrants and current workers are loathe to switch out of relatively high paying industries . This argument is supported by the relatively high employment in the “older” cohorts’, especially the age 35-44 cohort in mining and ages 55-64 in utilities.

Lastly, it stands to reason that if workers in in the older cohorts are heavily represented in the mining and utility sectors, they must be less represented in other industries. With respect to the larger industries, both cohorts are significantly underrepresented in the accommodation and retail trade sectors.