Viva Salt Lake City

The glittering, saline-laden lake in northwest Utah may be dead in ecological terms, but its namesake city remains vibrantly alive.

Salt Lake City’s more than 173,000 people powered the state’s feverish growth during the so-called “roaring ’90s.” Indeed, the years from 1993 to 1998 saw unprecedented rates of job creation, low unemployment and net migration into the state. Although subsequent growth slowed somewhat, Salt Lake City and its environs offer excellent job opportunities in diverse industries, notably high-tech and business services.

Consider these salient statistics:

  • Utah’s job creation rate, which a few years ago outstripped the national average, remains a solid 2.5 percent, and projections continue at that level.
  • The Utah economy as a whole generated 26,000 new jobs between 1998 and 1999. It is not surprising that half of those were in Salt Lake County, given that 1.5 of Utah’s 2 million residents live an hour’s drive from downtown Salt Lake City.
  • Salt Lake City’s unemployment rate stayed below 4 percent for nearly eight years. In May 2000, unemployment fell to a low 2.7 percent, compared with a national rate of 4.1 percent during the same month.

Fertile Ground for High Tech

In Salt Lake City, as elsewhere, the high-tech explosion kindles employment growth. In addition to a bevy of smaller software and e-commerce firms, more than 41,000 workers in the city and around the state find jobs with such employers as:

  • Gateway
  • Novell
  • Iomega
  • Fairchild Semiconductors
  • 3Com

At an average salary of $43,500, these employees earned considerably more than the Salt Lake region’s average per capita income of $24,300.

Statewide, IT jobs increased 35 percent between 1993 and 1998, according to the American Electronics Association. Salt Lake County added 1,400 computer-related service jobs in 1999, 21 percent of total service sector growth. The demand for computer science and engineering graduates currently outpaces supply, a gap that Utah’s universities are just beginning to address.

High-tech ferment requires venture capital. Yet high-tech firms across Utah attracted only $93 million in funding in 1999, far less than the billions invested in Silicon Valley and the Northeast United States.

Other Standouts: Business Services, Health and Movies?

  • Business services, as well as telemarketing, engineering and management-related jobs are major forces in Salt Lake City’s labor market and continue to expand faster than overall services (currently growing at around four percent).
  • Health care, the single largest service sector, projects rapid growth in job opportunities.
  • Financial services, accounting for seven percent of Salt Lake City jobs, expects slow growth due to downsizing and merger layoffs.
  • Motion picture and video production industries, a small but burgeoning boost to Salt Lake City, contributed 900 jobs to Salt Lake County’s economy in 1999.

While the Hollywood set may not soon flock to Salt Lake City, plenty of other workers are being lured by the area’s strong job prospects and considerable natural beauty. And as Salt Lake City takes center stage during the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city that sprang from a dead lake promises to flourish even more.

Statistics and trend information referenced in the above article were extracted from the following key sources:

  • Salt Lake City’s Official Web site
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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