When the interest rate rose from 11% in 1979 to 20% in 1981, I witnessed the devastating impact these rates had on businesses and families. Our state government’s actions at this time can either help or hinder all of us as we navigate through our current health and business challenges. In early 2020, Salt Lake County unemployment was at an historic low of 2.3%, but now the global pandemic has disrupted lives and businesses. We can avoid a double-dip recession if we prioritize testing, follow public health guidance, continue to innovate, and pursue wise public policies.
Our current health and business challenges bring attention to depressed wages in our county. Though inflation-adjusted wages have not increased, the cost of living has increased 256% since 1982. Salt Lake County is less affordable than the national average. Many individuals and families were feeling economically pressured even before March. We need to find ways to reverse these trends.
Increased automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are upon us. Thankfully, Salt Lake County has been studying our economy and recently released the Automation Brief Report. This report finds our county better prepared than most for changes due to automation because of our educated workforce with diverse skills. Government has a role to play in preparing us for increasing automation by providing quality education and facilitating transitions to new job opportunities. The report finds “growing pains in the short term can be mitigated through thoughtful public and private policies to address likely outcomes.”