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The Inacurracy Of The Pre-recession Mile Marker
Officials say pre-recession economy not a snapshot of what to look for today.

The March unemployment numbers for Utah were published in a April 17 report by the Department of Workforce Services. The report has Utah sitting at 3.4 percent joblessness compared to 5.5 percent nationally, both of which have not changed much in the first quarter of this year.

Also reported, the number of Utahns with jobs adds up to about 1.3 million people, with 49,000 residents actively looking for a work. The job growth rate, or created jobs, for the month was 4.0 percent.

If new jobs are popping up, why does it appear the unemployment number is stagnating? 

“There really is not a single magic number for the unemployment rate that signifies success, or a perfect economy,” said Nic Dunn, public information officer with the Department of Workforce Services. “You want it to be low, but also you want there to some movement or churn in the labor market.”

Dunn went on to say that he would like to continue to see the relatively low unemployment numbers that Utah currently has, combined with growth in the labor force and jobs for that labor force to take. He also said the state is getting closer to what is known as full employment, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will have a job.

“There is a concept called full employment which means that everyone, more or less, who looks for a work opportunity is able to find that work opportunity. Full employment… it’s not zero percent unemployment. That’s not a statistical reality,” Dunn said.  

When asked about how Utah's unemployment numbers now compare with pre-recession levels, Dunn said, in reality, comparing the two isn’t an accurate way to gauge how the state is doing economically because pre-recession levels weren't the norm.

“There isn’t a point in time we look at, right before the recession, and say, ‘Well, our unemployment rate was two-point something here,’ it’s not like we look at that and say, 'We have to get back to that point,'"Dunn said. “You know, we’re kind of on the tail end of two different economic phenomena, and so we’re dealing with two things that don’t happen to that extent, or to that severity, at either end of the spectrum, very often.” 

Before the phenomena Dunn referred to, the economic boom in the mid-2000s, and the subsequent collapse and recession, Utah’s employment numbers looked a lot like they do today. While there is always room to improve, Dunn is positive about how the state has recovered thus far.