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Nearly 20K new claims for unemployment insurance filed in Utah last week

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Updated - Mar. 26, 2020 at 9:53 a.m. | Posted - Mar. 26, 2020 at 9:15 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — There were 19,591 new claims filed for unemployment insurance benefits in Utah from March 15-21, representing a huge jump in claims due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report released Thursday.

For comparison, there were 1,314 new claims filed the week before that.

That represents a 1,391% jump in new filings from last week, according to the Utah Unemployment Insurance Division. The division paid out nearly $3.7 million in unemployment insurance benefits over the last week, according to the report.

“Clearly, the volume of claims has increased significantly, and also quickly,” Kevin Burt, Unemployment Insurance Division director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said in a Thursday news release. “The Unemployment Insurance Division staff are working diligently to try to meet this high demand, understanding the significance of this benefit to those that are applying.”

Additionally, there were 11,321 claims filed during that week for people who were already receiving unemployment benefits before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burt said.

Among the new claims, the food prep and serving industry represented the largest amount of people seeking unemployment benefits, with 37% of claimants last week coming from that industry. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ordered a shutdown of dine-in operations at all restaurants in the state on March 17.

Other industries representing significant numbers of claimants include office and administrative support, at 9.3%, and management, at 8.6%.

Salt Lake County had the largest amount of new claimants at 47%. Another 12.4% were from Utah County, 7.1% from Davis County, 6.2% from Weber County and 6.2% from Washington County, according to the news release.

Burt said people who filed claims last week should start seeing benefits arrive to them as early as March 31.

"We know the benefit is critical for these individuals right now and we’re trying to get to them," he said.

It typically takes 14-21 days to process a claim for unemployment insurance, according to Burt. The division is trying to hold to that timeframe even with the increased volume of claims, he added.

There is not a need for claimants to call the division, Burt said. If there is an issue with your application, an employee from the division will contact you. When people contact the division for follow-up calls about their claims, it increases the wait time for other claimants, Burt said.

He added that claimants can help the division process their applications faster by making sure they have completed the application fully.

Utah's unemployment compensation fund is the seventh-healthiest trust fund in the nation, according to Burt.

"Utah is prepared to meet this demand," he said.

Utahns who have questions about unemployment benefits or need to know how to apply can go to jobs.utah.gov/covid19. The website includes frequently asked questions about the process and other information.

Nationwide, 3.3 million people have sought unemployment benefits over the last week, which is almost five times higher than the previous weekly claims record, set in 1982, amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus.

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