Last week I attended a meeting that Central Bank hosted in Provo where they invited Natalie Gochnour who is an Associate Dean in the David Eccles School of Business and director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. She also serves as the chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber)
I felt like Natalie did a really good job breaking down A LOT of information in a short amount of time. Attached are her slides and you can watch her entire presentation here.
Also, you can view the entire economic report done by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute in Oct. 2021, which is attached and titled, "The State of the State's Housing Market". You can also view it here.
SOOOO...She's in the "loop" on what's going on in UT, economically. Additionally, the Ivory Gardner Institute is probably the foremost resource for economic information regarding our awesome state.
I just wanted to highlight some of the things she mentioned that I took note of and some insights from my perspective, outlined below:
No better state to be in than Utah w/all the uncertainty and no better county than UT County which is the 2nd largest County in UT, AND one of the fastest growing
UT County absorbed 1/3 of the state's growth in 2021
By population, Iron County was the fastest growing County in UT last year (which is where you'll find Cedar City)
Other "fastest growing counties" include Tooele, Wasatch, and Utah County
The "Center" of UT is now in the Harvest Hills area, in Saratoga Springs, Utah
We’re the fastest growing state in the country right now
3.7% job growth in UT, and nation is negative (UT, ID, Arizona, and TX are the only states to see job growth) The U.S. as a whole is down -1.8%
UT Valley is leading in these hard times, and not without the Provo/Orem “Metro”
1.9% unemployment rate in UT which is better than most places
(Side Note: Current speculation is that rents will raise about 10%/year for the next 2-3 years. We're also seeing vacancy rates are historically low in Utah County. Being under-built by 44,500 units keeps occupancy high in apartments/rentals.)
We’re the 30th largest state in the country and were the 34th for years till 2020-ish and believe it or not we’re more diverse than Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and others.
Consumer confidence right now is still high even though it’s dropped with COVID, and Omicron but it seems to be making it’s way back up
Geopolitical issues are a concern and come with unknowns - Will there be a market selloff, or other factors?
Sting of inflation - Current spike is “Absolutely expected coming out of a pandemic” but the question is how long will it be here? 1 year, 5 years? If not calibrated correctly, a recession will hit
Global supply chain stress is high, but looking to come down at the moment
Hoping that future COVID variants will be less and less harmful, new variant out “Stealth Omicron” (This seems to almost be a non-issue altogether since the Russia/Ukraine conflict
Our price increases are record breaking and unsustainable (4% - 6% is normal - Last year we had a 28% increase in home values)
Home affordability for first time home buyers is very concerning
Median days on market has recently gone from 5 days to 10 days
We’re about 45,000 units short of where we need to be for homes that’ll fit the demand. We did make up some ground last year.
Things affecting economy moving forward: Ukraine, Elections, Rates (1, 25 basis point interest rate hike each quarter this year - so at least 4 total), Inflation, etc.
(Side Note: My preferred lender told me "off the record";) that he thinks rates will land sub-5% by the end of the year. Still, really good rates, but we've been pretty spoiled the past few years with amazing interest rates. It'll be interesting to see where rates are at come election year, 2024.)
MOVING FORWARD/RECOMMENDED STRATEGIES
Prepare for economic re-sorting
Take care of yourself and your people
Care for those left behind
Invest in institutions (Schools, religions, etc.)
(Side Note: She also mentioned all the albeit smart but expected advice like: Watch the market, save for a rainy day, act quickly, add value in everything you do, and diversify.)
Q & A:
GDP is in a bad spot - We need spending and tax changes to get ahead of our debt, according to the presenter
Tech/manufacturing may do better during a recession or hard times. UT was less diverse till more tech companies started (beginning w/Word Perfect) and we’re so tech heavy we’re becoming less diversified now.
From Natalie's perspective, we got a lot more stimulus in Utah than we actually needed. She's probably right!
Supply chain: will be fixed (If you've built a home or done any shopping in the past few months, there's a good chance you've experienced delays in products)
Demand: People have extra savings and have money to spend, stock market has done well so that’s added to this
Inflation Timeline: She thinks we’ll have inflation till 2023 which is when we’ll get it under control and a reasonable concern with this would be a recession happening after that.
Oil prices: affect consumer confidence and are easily seen by consumers
She thinks copper and silver prices will rise which "might be good for UT"
Crypto: How can it help or hurt? Crytpo is here to stay, has some advantages, private, fast, volatile, risky, but she doesn’t think it’ll take over in our lifetime or for a while, at least
Summary of My Thoughts:
There is so much to digest here, but construction right now is booming, and it's hard to find contractors for just about every type of job. We're seeing the best economy in the history of Utah. The economy is so good, that some business owners have struggled to stay above and navigate these waters.
It'll be tough to call the exact time when the market will drop, but it will happen at some point. However, it's probably not a good idea to try and "time" the drop, but invest intelligently with a game plan and long-term vision in mind. Hold on, just like you would if you bought Bitcoin in the past few months - Not that I would know anything about that ;)
Lastly, Utah is an amazing place to live. I've always known that, but thanks to the likes of Post Malone, the word is out. (Love you, Post) We're growing at an exponential rate. I work with 2 custom home builders and we've sold/built homes in just the past 2 years to people coming from California, Oregon, Ohio, & Missouri.
Thanks for reading - Feel free to reach out with any questions or contact me anytime. These are interesting times for sure. They're hard times, but very opportunistic, and quite amazing altogether.