New unemployment claims slowing as state reopens, but Washington County still in top 5 for claims filed

A man walks past the Utah Department of workforce Services, in Salt Lake City, Utah, April 9, 2020 | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The number of people requesting unemployment assistance in Utah last week dropped below 5,000 for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States but remained at a rate far higher than normal, according to new figures released Thursday.

Utah officials said 4,996 people applied for unemployment in the week ending May 30 – an 8% drop from the previous week and the eighth consecutive week that claims have decreased since a peak of 33,000 in the week ending April 4.

The unemployment figure dropped below the previous record of 5,300 that stood before the pandemic but had been eclipsed each of the previous 10 weeks. However, the weekly figure was still 444% higher than the same time last year.

According to a statement from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the three industries that saw the highest percentage of claims this week, as self-identified by the claimant at the time of their filing, were office and administrative support (13.2%), production occupations (8.7%), and management occupations (8.6%).

The five counties in Utah that had the highest number of individuals file new unemployment insurance claims were Salt Lake (37%), Utah (19%), Davis (8%), Weber (7.6%) and Washington (3.7%).

Kevin Burt, Unemployment Insurance Division director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said in the statement that the consistent decline in claims is encouraging after Utah started the process of gradually allowing many businesses to reopen May 1.

Burt warned that unemployment aid is temporary and that workers must go back to work if given the opportunity unless they are a high risk for coronavirus.

Mirroring the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic forced countless businesses to shut down or lay off workers. Since March 14, Utah has received nearly 170,000 claims for unemployment. That represents 11.5% of the total workforce of Utah that is eligible for the unemployment insurance program.

The state has paid out nearly $199 million in state funds while doling out an additional $333 million in federal stimulus funds, state figures show.

Written by BRADY McCOMBS, The Associated Press.

St. George News contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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