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Guest opinion: Utah is the national leader in jobs creation. What can go wrong?

In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo a bilingual help wanted sign for Auto Zone, a retailer of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories, is posted outside the store in Canton, Miss.
In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo a bilingual help wanted sign for Auto Zone, a retailer of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories, is posted outside the store in Canton, Miss.
Rogelio V. Solis, AP

A culture that makes a desert bloom will engage in commerce to the ends of the earth.

Nine years into the second-longest economic expansion in American history, the Beehive State leads the nation in jobs creation, with a 28 percent creation rate versus the national average of 14 percent, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics records from 2009 to 2018 show. The expansion started in June 2009 when the Great Recession ended, notes the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

How strong is local growth? Jobs creation in all five Utah metropolitan statistical areas exceed the U.S average. These are Provo-Orem, St. George, Salt Lake City, Ogden-Clearfield and Logan. Growth is so broad-based that 10 of 11 Utah industry supersectors also exceed U.S. averages, with professional and business services and construction leading the field.

Skeptics might argue it's easier to generate high growth rates from a small base, but Utah, which ranked 31st in 2016 U.S. Census population estimates, tops 19 smaller states.

So much looks so good about Utah's economy. What could possibly go wrong?

The business cycle, for one. It's counterintuitive to prepare for busts during booms, or vice versa. Yet it's self-evident that darkness follows light before the sun rises yet again.

Better to accept that expansions end in recessions, and busts end with new booms.

Accepting the business cycle is the first step toward crafting solutions. These can include living within one's means by saving and reducing debt levels. It can also mean more time spent on education and new skills. Every individual, household and enterprise is unique.

The family is also a powerful, albeit overlooked, source of knowledge. "How did our grandparents survive the Great Depression?" "So that's why Mom and Dad moved here. The economy was booming and there was a jobs shortage in our community." "Our family business started in a recession?! How did we manage that?"

The examples are endless. Economics, termed "the dismal science," comes alive when the human element is introduced. Every family has knowledge to share in this area.

Religious institutions have their own unique perspectives on how to address the cycle.

Commercial enterprises are also powerful sources of knowledge. One measure of Utah's entrepreneurial culture is the large number of publicly traded companies, on a per capita basis. NASDAQ lists 33 public firms in a broad range of industries. The business histories and public reports of these enterprises contain a wealth of practical knowledge and valuable insights measured across decades.

Zions Bancorporation is one example. It was founded in 1873 at the start of a five-and-a-half-year recession. Huntsman Corp. is another. It was founded in 1970, a year when the economy was in recession for 11 months, the NBER chronology shows.

Somewhere in Utah, an entrepreneur is thinking about a new enterprise that may launch in the next downturn.

The pattern is clear: The U.S. economy's natural state is expansion, which ends in recession and, later, a new recovery. There are 33 economic cycles in the NBER's business cycle chronology, which dates to 1854. The average duration of 11 postwar expansions is 58.4 months, versus 11.1 months in contraction, which means the current expansion's duration will become the longest in U.S. history if it lasts until summer 2019.

But when it ends, the business climate will change. Utah shed nearly 80,000 jobs in the last recession.

So enjoy the boom while it lasts, with the knowledge that Utah leads the nation.