Utah’s unemployment claims inch up again after steady weekly declines

Unemployment claims bounced up slightly last week in Utah after eight weeks of declines since pandemic-related highs in early April.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 5,452 Utahns filed for jobless benefits the week ending May 30, roughly 500 more than the week prior. They were among 1.54 million U.S workers who did the same last week across the country.

Thursday’s report marked only the second time that national weekly jobless claims had fallen below the 2 million mark since their historic peaks. Last week’s claims were down by 78% from their peak of 6.9 million the ending of March 28.

A total of 44.5 million Americans have now experienced some kind of job disruptions since mid-March, when the effects of COVID-19 first began shaking the U.S. economy.

The Labor Department said 20.9 million collected unemployment benefits last week, down slightly from 21.3 million the prior week.

In Utah, more than 205,000 residents have reported pay cuts, furloughs or layoffs triggered by the crisis, including more than 29,400 self-employed workers and independent contractors.

As they have for several weeks, the highest shares of new jobless claims last week came from workers in office and administrative support, management and sales and related occupations.

Nearly 38,160 workers in Utah have ended their claims in recent weeks, a sign they’ve returned to work as stay-at-home directives have lifted and major portions of the economy have reopened.

Initial claims in Utah are now hovering around a previous weekly record of 5,300, set after a U.S. government shutdown in 2013.

Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune

In a statement, Unemployment Insurance Division Director Kevin Burt said that while new and ongoing claims were “persistently high," that trend continued to be offset by those stopping their claims and reentering the workplace.

Burt said the state was focused on getting displaced residents back to work and noted that while unemployment aid “had provided stability for many Utahns, it is an important reminder that it is also very temporary.”

The state Department of Workforce Services said it doled out a total of $75.2 million in benefits last week. While $25.8 million of that was for traditional state benefits paid out from Utah’s unemployment trust fund, another $48.2 million was sent to workers in federal $600 weekly stimulus checks.

An additional $1 million went to residents who’d exhausted other jobless aid, under a special extension of those benefits, DWS reported.

Since March 15, the state of Utah has paid out $608.7 million in total unemployment assistance due to the pandemic.

Unless Congress votes to extend it, the $600 federal jobless stipend is set to expire at the end of July.