Forbes, BYU Econ professor predict rapid economic COVID-19 recovery in Provo

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Center street in Provo becomes busier as businesses begin to reopen and people start to participate in the economy again. (Addie Blacker)

Provo was named one of the top 10 U.S. cities that will recover quickest from the pandemic, according to Forbes Magazine and Moody’s Analytics.

Information from Moody’s Analytics recent report examining potential to recover from the pandemic among the top 100 US metro areas. (Spencer McWilliams)

Moody’s looked at the top 100 metro areas in the country to find this information, making a comparison of the population density of a city and jobs that require a higher education degree. 

“Among the 10 best cities are small college towns, which are particularly well-poised for a recovery,” a Forbes article reads. 

So, what makes Provo unique out of the many other college towns in the U.S.?

BYU economics professor Brennan Platt weighed in on the report and how Provo and Utah County may stand out. 

He said having a very educated workforce has helped Utah County the most.

“I was just looking at a statistic that said 40% of adults in Utah County have a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “That also speaks to the type of jobs that are here.”

Platt mentioned Silicon Slopes and how its expansion has placed a lot of people in tech jobs who have had less disruption in their work when the pandemic hit. “If you look at the type of people who are able to continue working through teleconferencing, it’s often people in the tech sector or other jobs requiring higher education.”

Moody’s Analytics also identified this unique factor, referencing how fast-growing tech hubs like Silicon Valley in California will become the leaders of the post-pandemic world. 

Platt said that another unique thing about Utah County in particular is the young population. 

“The median age here in Utah County is 24 and a half years old,” he said. “If you take the full United States, the median age is 38 years old. We’re over a decade younger.” 

Moody’s Analytics provides data in collaboration with John Hopkins University showing that 8% of the population in Utah County is over the age of 65 in comparison to the national rate of 16.7%.

According to Platt, the young population is an ideal factor in helping the economy. 

“A very young population tends to be gravitating more towards the tech sector,” he said. “They also tend to be better poised to adjust their careers, which is often necessary as you’re coming out of a recession.” 

The spread of COVID-19 has not been as widespread in Provo as it has in other cities. According to Moody’s, the total COVID-19 case rate in Provo-Orem is 0.1% in comparison to the U.S.’s 16.7%. 

“The fact that we haven’t had as widespread outbreaks here in Utah, it does a lot for people’s comfort levels of participating in the economy,” said Platt. “Hopefully still within caution and within guidelines of social distancing.”

Platt acknowledges the diversity of opinions on guidelines with wearing masks and opening businesses, but he thinks there is compliance with the suggested guidelines overall. He recognized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ large influence in helping people comply.

“When the Church decided to shut down all gatherings in the temple and all of our meetings, it became a big deal,” he said. “I think it helped our communities to realize that this is something we ought to be serious about.”

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