A website called WalletHub that tracks statistics about the economy sent out an email release this week to commemorate Employee Appreciation Day — March 3, in case you were too busy to notice — by listing the hardest-working places in America.
Salt Lake City ranked well back in the peloton in 32nd place, several slots below San Francisco; Anchorage, Alaska; Irving, Texas; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Washington, D.C., which took the top five spots.
I called the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity to see how a state with the beehive for its logo feels about not making the top 10 in hardest-working, or the top 25 for that matter.
Jim Grover, the state’s managing director of incentives and grants, took the call.
His response: thanks for the compliment.
In Jim’s view, there’s a difference between working hard and having success. Or, as he put it in more professional jargon: “I think it’s great that Utah is a place you can thrive that doesn’t have to require you to have a really high average of workweek hours or work multiple jobs.”
The hardest-working places (not to mention any names, San Francisco) are places where “there’s a lot of hustle. But hustle doesn’t always mean meaningful experiential growth.”
It could mean you have to work two jobs to pay the rent.
For context, Grover pointed to other recent WalletHub statistics and Utah’s, or Salt Lake City’s, ranking:
Best place to start a career: No. 1.
Best state economy: No. 2 (Washington is first).
Best cities for jobs: No. 7 Salt Lake City, No. 21 West Valley City.
Most innovative states: No. 10.
Then he tossed in a few more:
Wall Street Journal’s ranking of America’s best economies: No. 1 (pre-COVID-19).
U.S. News & World Report: No. 1 best state economy, No. 2 best states for job opportunities, No. 3 best states for growth.
And the coup de grace: The website Rich States, Poor States ranked Utah first in the nation in economic outlook in 2022, continuing its string of No. 1 rankings to 15 years.
Statistically speaking, Utah and Salt Lake City are the Kansas City Chiefs of the economic world.
It may be rough right now making ends meet, but it’s rougher almost everywhere else.
“We have a governor and a state legislature that’s very mindful of not overspending the money that they see in the forecast and that makes it a really good place for businesses to say, ‘Utah’s a very stable place, we can rely on Utah to pay its bills,’” says Grover. “We are not a boom and bust kind of place.”
And if that sounds like a man who is paid by the state, well, he is. But Grover goes on to point out, objectively, that Utah has had a perennial triple A bond rating with Moody’s dating back to when Moody’s started rating states. He also points to the businesses that keep relocating to or starting up in the state, naming Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, CHG Healthcare, Weave, Northrop Grumman, Brandless, Lending Club and many more.
“It’s not the kind of place where you feel like you’re ready to leave once you get there,” he adds.
The same could be said of WalletHub’s website. If you’re of a statistical nature, it can keep you there awhile. A short dive can turn into a deep dive.
Before I left the site, I learned that Utah can brag about some other things beyond a strong economy. For example:
Utah is No. 1 in these categories: most charitable states, most independent (self-sustaining) states, least gambling addicted states and least stressed states. And in least obese states it’s No. 2 (Colorado is first).
Also, Utah is No. 4 in happiest states in America (Hawaii is first) and Salt Lake City is No. 5 in healthiest places to live in the U.S. (San Francisco is first).
And on the list of most fun cities in America, Salt Lake City comes in at No. 24 — out of 182.
But not all the news is good news.
In women’s equality, Utah ranks 50th out of 50. Nowhere in America is the income gap between male and female bigger than it is here — and it’s not even close. Utah’s score, according to WalletHub’s metric, is far lower than the next worst state, Georgia, and miles behind New Mexico, Nevada and California at 1-2-3.
As with the other rankings, the governor saw that one, too, says Grover.
“When that came out, he sent messages to the statewide HR group and said, ‘How true is that in state government?’ So we are doing something about that, as well as having discussions with companies (looking for incentives to relocate) about gender pay.”
For further proof that the state is concerned about the great gender divide, Grover referred me to inUtah.org, a website that recognizes “100 Companies championing women.” So they’re working at it. Tune in to WalletHub next year and see how hard.