Utah’s unemployment claims stay flat as U.S. reports an 11.1% jobless rate for June

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) People wearing masks as they shopped June 23, 2020, on Main Street in Salt Lake City. The U.S. jobless rate fell to 11.1% in June and Utah’s unemployment picture shows further signs of stabilizing as economic activity shuttered in March and April by the pandemic slowly resumed.

Utah’s unemployment picture showed further signs of stabilizing as the national jobless rate inched lower for a second consecutive month.

The U.S. added 4.8 million jobs in June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday, pushing the nation’s unemployment rate down to 11.1% as economic activity shut down in March and April due to COVID-19 continued to resume.

That’s a decline from 13.3% in May. But the new number was based on surveys conducted in mid-June, before states such as Arizona, Texas, Florida and Utah began seeing a resurgence of coronavirus cases.

Utah’s jobless rate for June won’t be released until mid-July, but state officials are already predicting that will come in well below the national rate.

Nationally, Job gains in June were especially strong in leisure and hospitality, among the sectors hit hardest by the initial downturn. Employment also grew last month in retail trade, education and health services, manufacturing, and professional and business services, Thursday’s report said.

In Utah, 5,006 people filed new unemployment claims last week, according to separate and newer data released by the Labor Department, marking the sixth week those filings have hovered in that range after coming off dramatic highs set in early April.

Those Utah residents were among 1.47 million Americans who sought unemployment assistance during the week ending June 27, for an unprecedented total of more than 48 million who have seen job disruptions since the crisis began, according to the Labor Department.

It was unclear Thursday how the latest jobless numbers might affect the ongoing congressional debate on extending a substantial increase in jobless benefits. Congress previously added a $600 weekly stipend to unemployment checks across the country.

Between traditional state benefits and that $600 bonus, Utah has paid out $823.8 million in jobless benefits since March, the state Department of Workforce Services said Thursday.

Utah’s Unemployment Insurance Director Kevin Burt said in a statement the money “has been an incredible stabilizer for those that have and continue to see disruption to their employment as we move towards economic recovery.”

But, Burt noted, that was “about to change dramatically” when the $600 weekly stimulus expires at the end of July.

Unemployment in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, meanwhile, was at 9.4% for May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier in the week.

St. George’s jobless rate was only slightly lower, at 9.3%, the bureau said, while in the Ogden-Clearfield area, the rate was at 7.9%. Provo-Orem saw a 6.2% unemployment rate in May and Logan’s was at 4.8%.

Some 226,375 Utah residents have reported being furloughed, laid off or experiencing pay cuts since the pandemic first infected the U.S. economy in early March.

But as Utah has gradually reopened its economy, nearly 60% those applicants have dropped their claims, according to DWS, and are thought to have returned to work.

DWS reported Thursday that ongoing jobless claims were at 83,959 last week, a new low since their one-week peak on May 2, at 107,711 ongoing claims.

And since the crisis began, roughly 34,470 Utahns who are self-employed or work as independent contractors in the gig economy have sought jobless aid, under a new program created by Congress in late March. That number rose by 1,680 workers last week, well down from a spike of 7,062 in one week in mid-April.

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