State officials are bullish on Utah's economy, despite newly released figures that show a record fifth consecutive year with more people leaving the state than moving in.
A report by the state's Population Estimates Committee shows Utah lost 11,526 more people than it gained from July 1, 1987, to the same date in 1988. The state's population still increased by 15,000 during that period, thanks to a high birthrate.State officials have been tracking migration in and out of Utah since 1947. Never before have they calculated five consecutive years with more people leaving than moving in. Before 1983, the state had 15 consecutive years with more people coming than going.
But state officials say the economy did well during the second half of 1988 - a period not included in the report.
"I'm not prepared to say it will turn around this year, but the out-migration will be less," said Randall Rogers, an economist with the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
Rogers said young families appear to have been the biggest group leaving the state in recent years. Construction workers and miners also have left in search of work.
Kirk Green, the state's director of urban marketing, said a number of large corporations, including McDonnell Douglas, Western Gear and SPS Technologies, have decided to move operations to Utah in recent years. Most of them are still getting started and intend to soon hire large numbers of Utahns.
"My prognosis is we will probably see a reduction to either flat migration or a small in-migration this year," Green said. "I'm more optimistic than I've been in quite some time."
Green has labeled 1988 the "year of Utah-bashing," saying state residents have had negative feelings about how the rest of the nation perceives them. However, despite the negative publicity of a standoff between police and the Singer-Swapp polygamist family and negative stories in the media, tourism increased and corporations decided to move to the state, he said.
Green said the state should concentrate on building itself from within and worry less about its image nationwide. "A good product speaks for itself," he said.
But state officials said the state's high birthrate always presents the possibility people will leave the state in search of jobs. Green said the state needs up to 25,000 new jobs each year just to keep up with its young people entering the work force.
Rogers said Utah's birthrate is the unknown factor that could halt a turnaround in migration during the 1990s.
"Most other states don't have this kind of birthrate," he said, and the state's large amount of young people may either leave in search of jobs or attract companies in search of workers.
The population report shows Utah's birthrate increased slightly but was offset by a slight increase in the number of deaths. Since 1980, births have outnumbered deaths by 238,859 in Utah, accounting for more than the state's entire population growth during that time.
Rural counties were the hardest hit by out-migration last year, the report shows. Along the Wasatch Front, only Davis County showed a net in-migration, although all four counties showed an overall increase in population.
Davis, Weber, Salt Lake and Utah counties have an estimated combined population of 1,309,000, according to the report.