Provo-Orem metro area best in nation for job growth

The Provo Orem metro area topped the nation in November with 5.25 increase year-to-year job growth percentage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Provo-Orem metro area topped the nation in November with 5.25 percent increase in year-to-year job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Chris Bunker)

BYU graduates and employers are enjoying and contributing to extended job growth in the Provo-Orem metro area.

The metro area topped the nation in November with 5.25 percent increase in year-to-year job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Utah Governor’s Office of Education and BYU University Career Services say the growth locally, in part, is driven by a steady supply of qualified talent from BYU and UVU and other trade and technical colleges in Utah County.

Employers added about 11,400 jobs in November, bringing estimated total employment to 230,800 jobs in the area. Last month the Provo-Orem metro area saw 5.5 percent growth in year-to-year growth as well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“To be at 5.5 percent job growth is astounding,” said Ben Hart, a managing director with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “There is definitely some unique things going on in Provo and in Orem that are contributing to this.”

He pointed to the “hot start-up economy” and “unicorn” companies in the Provo-Orem metro as factors that contribute to economic growth and market desirability.

However, Hart said direct impact of start-ups on job growth is not tracked specifically by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Governor’s Office of Economic Development. 

“When you get to 5.5 percent growth that’s not one or two businesses that are doing well,” Hart said. “That will get you to the middle of the pack in the rest of the country. Every business in the community has to be doing well.”

Direct impacts of the cluster of the BYU, UVU and the University of Utah is a heightened access to original research and development locally and a talented work force to fuel growth.

Director of University Career Services, Jodi Chowen, said on-campus recruiting by employers for BYU grads is has grown back to pre-recession levels and the university might have to become more selective as to which employers are allowed to directly recruit on-campus.

“That’s one of the reasons why students are staying. One of the reasons why more students from outside of Utah are staying inside of Utah is because the economy in Utah is going so well,” Chowen said of BYU grads.

She also estimates around 60 percent of students come from out of state while 40 percent come from within; but, the percentage of graduates staying in the state of Utah is closer to 56 percent, Chowen said.

“We have just over half stay in Utah, which means that some of the students that come from outside of Utah are staying in Utah,” Chowen said.

She speculates there are many other reasons for graduates to take work in Utah — including familial pressures from new spouses or graduate education.

However, a graduate’s level and type of education seems to have greater sway on if a graduate stays local or not.

Undergraduates tend to stay local more than master’s or doctoral graduates, Chowen said. She said 73 percent of education grads stay to work, contrasted with 70 percent of technology and engineering graduates who leave the state.

The trend of BYU graduates continues with what Chowen described as “hard science” graduates (or STEM graduates), two-thirds of whom leave the state.

“We are not drilling oil here, we’re not manufacturing cars here,” Chowen said.

Hart said the tendency of “hard science” graduates to leave the state is not standard across the state. He said 70 to 80 percent of graduates in “hard sciences” will take their first job in Utah.

Regardless of the local economy, Chowen said around 90 percent of BYU graduates seeking a job find one within six months and 80 percent in three months.

“I think the job growth factor obviously has to do with the pool of (local) qualified candidates,” Chowen said. “But the tech industry especially has taken off and we have a lot of small, medium business along the Wasatch Front.”

Hart said the economic development office fears “brain drain,” or losing educated talent to businesses in other states.

“We want more of that ‘go forth to serve’ here in the state of Utah,” Hart said.

Chowen said BYU definitely “positively impacts” the surrounding economy but that BYU and its graduates are also subject to the economy as well. For instance — during the recession when on-campus recruiting took a major dip.

With the national economy growing and recruitment back up, Chowen said BYU job placement efforts face a new problem.

Anecdotally, she has observed that some students who are recruited to work out of the state will work only for a short time and then come back to the Intermountain West.

She sees this as a “knock” on the university and asks that students as potential employees be genuine and sincere in career aspirations when speaking with potential employers.

“We want students to accept offers and then go all in,” Chowen said.

BYU Employment Services plans on continued leveraging of companies that operate in areas with a large alumni populations because a large alumni population would theoretically make an area more attractive for long-term employment.


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