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Despite recession fears, Utah voters express confidence in the job market

Help wanted signs are everywhere this spring.
Matt Rourke/AP
Help wanted signs are everywhere this spring.

Even with recession fears looming nationally, a sampling of 1,900 Utah voters from the midterm election found they are confident in the job market – if the economy took a turn for the worst.

According to data compiled by the Associated Press, 80% of respondents said the economy was “not so good” or worse. But almost 70% were confident they could find a good job if they needed to.

Utah's unemployment is still at 2.1% and has been virtually unchanged since January. The state’s economy also grew at just over 3% during the past year. Both are better than national numbers, but interest rate hikes and inflation have raised fears of a future recession.

Some economists call this high inflation but low unemployment climate “uncharted territory,” pointing out there’s just not enough data to predict if a recession is really coming.

“I wish we knew the answer to that question,” said Utah State University economics professor James Feigenbaum. “The reality is there’s only been a dozen recessions since we started collecting data on this. The current situation is very unlike any of the data that we’ve experienced in the last 50 years or so.”

Past recessions have followed a pattern of decreased economic activity coupled with job loss. But that may not be the case moving forward.

“There's all kinds of things shifting in our society,” added Feigenbaum. “The [COVID-19] pandemic was like the catalyst for that to happen. It may be that we’re not really entering a recession and this is just something happening as a result of this adjustment of the labor market.”

Feigenbaum is not the only one who thinks future recessions might not follow the same old playbook.

“Prior economic outcomes may no longer hold sway,” said Utah Department of Workforce Services chief economist Mark Knold. “Recessions may not create job losses.”

While they may not lose their jobs – just over half of those interviewed by the AP said they are holding steady with their financial situation. 38% said they are falling behind.