WASHINGTON, April 29 (Reuters) - When it comes to economic growth and business strength, there may be no better U.S. state than Utah, according to a report set to be released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
The business association found that Utah, population 2.8 million, ranked third among all states in overall economic performance - a measure of how states’ economies have fared over time in terms of jobs, gross domestic product, productivity and income.
Moreover, Utah was the only state to make the top 10 lists for all five of the “policy” areas the Chamber assessed - exports, innovation and entrepreneurship, business climate, talent pipeline and infrastructure.
“Utah is the strongest job growth performer behind North Dakota ... The state is becoming known as a professional services and finance center,” said the Chamber. “Manufacturing is a competitive advantage for the state. Over the past decade, Utah’s manufacturing sector saw a slight increase in employment during a time when national manufacturing employment contracted by 22.51 percent.”
Utah’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest among the states at 4.9 percent in March 2013, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Each year the Chamber ranks states according to various economic and business measures for its “Enterprising States” report. This year, fortune seemed directly tied to technology and engineering across the five areas the Chamber evaluates.
For exports, Utah came in third after Louisiana and Texas, primarily because it is a major supplier to the world of electronic memory circuits, aircraft engines and parts, vehicle airbags and X-ray equipment, according to the Chamber.
Utah had top rankings in entrepreneurship mostly because it is establishing high-tech businesses at a fast rate.
The Chamber also considered Utah strong in the “talent pipeline” area, which looks at both education and training as well as job assistance programs after the state legislature approved funds to foster more engineering graduates and software developers.
Technology was even a factor for Utah’s top ranking in infrastructure, with the Chamber emphasizing Utah’s high-speed data connections alongside the high quality of the state’s bridges.
For the business climate measure, which assesses the influence of government-related costs on local businesses, the Chamber put Utah sixth because of its high small-business lending activity, low taxes and laws.
Technology also gave Maryland and Virginia a boost in the Chamber’s report.
The Chamber ranked Maryland first in entrepreneurship, largely because of its research and development and its science and technology employment growth, and Virginia third partly for having the highest share of businesses in high-tech industries.
Still, the extraction and the commodities boom continues to prove crucial for jobs, business and incomes in most states.
North Dakota’s “stratospheric growth” from the oil and natural gas industry put it first on the list of economic performance, followed by Texas, which has added 41,000 jobs in natural resources extraction in the last two years, according to the Chamber.
Three other energy heavyweights completed the top 10 economic performance list, with Wyoming fourth, Oklahoma seventh and Louisiana eighth.
The Chamber of Commerce is not the only one to notice that certain states are bounding ahead as the recovery from the 2007-09 recession unfolds. Earlier this month, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service said it expected to find the strongest growth this year in the Rocky Mountain region, including Utah and Wyoming, and in the West South Central area encompassing Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.