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Gardner Institute: What's on the horizon for Salt Lake County's Economy?

Posted By Regional Development
September 02, 2020

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Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, what is Salt Lake County's economic outlook?

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute is always a key source to fascinating data and insight into the local economy.

Natalie Gochnour shared critical information for Salt Lake County leaders and decision makers as they assess impact of the pandemic and carry out recovery policy and initiatives in September 2020. 

Utah currently holds the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S., at 4.5%.Year-over-year percent job change comes in at -1.8% — only surpassed by Idaho. 

Salt Lake County Perspective

Salt Lake County tracks the state. It stacks up well to other urban counties, according to the Institute. New weekly unemployment claims in Salt Lake County have consistently decreased since Week 14 of 2020, topping out around 15,000. July 2020's unemployment rate in Salt Lake County was 5.7%.

The economic diversity in the county also provides significant resiliency; Utah has the highest score of economic diversity in the U.S., according to the Hachman Index Score. Salt Lake County has the most economic diversity of any county in the state with 94.1. The second most diverse is Weber County.

Success in public health is directly tied to the recovery of the economy. As strides are made in limiting the spread of COVID-19, consumers face safer environments to engage in the economy.One point of emphasis from the Institute is that "face coverings have been one of the most important economic tools." Since the face covering requirement made by Salt Lake County in late June (which now extends through the rest of 2020), the region has seen a decrease in the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases.

Looking to the Future

Economists right now are looking at the COVID-19 fiscal cliff following the CARES Act, stimulus checks issued in April and the extra pandemic unemployment expiring at the end of July. Enter: The cliff. Gochnour said it was imperative another stimulus be passed.

Salt Lake County Economic Horizon 9-1-20 (002)_Page_21.jpg

As it stands, multiple stimulus packages have been debated by Congress, in addition to President Donald Trump's executive orders. Moody's Macro Model suggests $1.5 trillion is needed.

Gardner Institute: Changes to Watch For

There are four structural changes to watch for in Salt Lake County's economy as we navigate long-term recovery.

  1. New Banking Paradigm
  2. De-globalization
  3. Tech-enabled services
  4. Reckoning of commercial real estate

It's anticipated that shorter supply chains will become more common, and remote work and technology-enabled services have been significantly accelerated due to COVID-19. The behavioral changes of remote work and sales increases the risk of current and future commercial real estate.

"Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next," author Arundhati Roy has said.

Change in Taxable Sales in Salt Lake CountyOf course, there have been winners and losers in the pandemic. Taxable sales in Salt Lake County have shown that. While industries like food service, accomodations, entertainment and recreation have seen massive declines, online shopping, sporting goods, and food stores have seen incredible increases. It will be interesting to track those changes through the rest of 2020.

Is the economy back to normal? No. But in Salt Lake county, it's on its way and trends upward.Salt Lake County Economic Horizon 9-1-20 (002)_Page_29.jpg

Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute's entire Salt Lake County report and presentation given in September 2020 is available for viewing here.

For more COVID-19 economic information and resources, visit