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6K more Utahns file for unemployment benefits, down for 6th straight week

By Jacob Klopfenstein, | Updated - May 21, 2020 at 10:35 a.m. | Posted - May 21, 2020 at 7:38 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — The number of new Utahns filing for unemployment benefits was down for the sixth straight week, but thousands of people are still filing for benefits.

Another 6,275 Utahns sought unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Though that number has decreased for several weeks, it’s still well above the highest number of people filing unemployment claims last year.

The largest amount of people filing for claims in any single week before 2020 was about 5,000, according to Kevin Burt, Unemployment Insurance Division director for the Utah Division of Workforce Services. That volume came during a federal government shutdown in 2013, which impacted a large number of Utahns, he said.

In the week of May 3-9, a total of 7,135 people filed for unemployment benefits.

The data released Thursday shows the continuing trend of high unemployment as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Nationally, 2.4 million people filed for unemployment last week, and about 39 million have sought benefits since the pandemic began.

People who seek unemployment benefits must also file a weekly claim showing they still need and qualify for unemployment checks. A total of 6,583 people ended that weekly claim last week, according to the Unemployment Insurance Division.

That's up from last week, when 4,176 ended their weekly claim, according to the unemployment division. About 5% more people ended their weekly claim than the previous week, Burt said.

“We continue to be encouraged by the number of individuals ending their unemployment insurance claims as our economy dials back up,” Burt said in a news release. “This is likely a reflection of individuals gradually returning to work and taking less in their weekly benefit amount.”

The state paid out just under $27 million in benefits last week, according to the release. Another $48 million went out to Utahns in the form of a $600 federal stimulus that is added to claimants’ weekly unemployment checks.

The amount the state paid out last week is about 3% less than the previous week, according to Burt. That is the first time since the pandemic began that the state has paid out less money than a previous week, he said.

Another program of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, has gone into effect in Utah. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation is now available for people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits to the maximum number of weeks they are eligible for benefits.

The program allows people to receive up to 13 more weeks of unemployment benefits. It is the fifth and final unemployment-related program from the CARES Act that will be available in Utah, according to a news release.

Individuals who have already been receiving unemployment benefits will be transitioned to the program automatically when they reach their maximum benefit weeks, Burt added.

Of the people claiming unemployment benefits last week, about 15% were from the office and administrative support industry — the most of any single industry, according to the release. Another 9% came from the production operations industry, and 8% were from the sales industry.

Salt Lake County again had the most claimants from any single county, with 43% of all people filing for claims last week. Following were Utah County, with 14%; Davis County, with 8%; Weber County, with 7%; and Washington County, with 4%, the release said.

Burt noted that the amount of unemployment insurance claims since the pandemic began has reached about 184,000. By comparison, from 2017-2019, the total claims received in those three years was about 195,000, he said.

"We got three years of work in two months," Burt said. "We are certainly not out of the woods, by any means."

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Jacob Klopfenstein

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