Utah’s jobless rate fell to 5.1% in June, 2nd lowest in the country

Utah’s unemployment rate fell to 5.1% in June as businesses continued to bring employees back to work from furloughs related to the pandemic.

That rate is second lowest among U.S. states and well below the national average, which reported unemployment of 11.1% last month as the U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

Forty-two U.S. states, including Utah, saw their jobless rates drop in June. The Beehive State’s rate, which declined from 8.6% in May, was second only to Kentucky, at 4.3%. Idaho’s was third lowest last month, at 5.6%.

Massachusetts had the nation’s highest jobless rate in June, at 17.4%, followed by New Jersey, 16.6%, and New York, 15.7%, which all set state records with those numbers.

The U.S. rate for June was down from 13.3% for May and 14.7% for April as the effects of economic reopening from COVID-19-related health restrictions reflected in labor markets. As many as 40 states, including Utah, now have rising numbers of coronavirus cases, raising doubts that a recovery will continue unimpeded.

Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune

The number of Americans out of work decreased by 3.2 million in June, to 17.8 million. Of those, an estimated 10.6 million are thought to be temporarily laid off, the bureau said.

Nearly 85,700 Utahns were out of work last month, according to the state Department of Workforce Services, well down from levels seen in April, when jobless claims peaked.

Just under half the workers idled by COVID-19 in Utah have returned to employment over the past two months, Mark Knold, chief economist at the Department of Workforce Services, said in a statement.

That has cut the state’s jobless rate in half since April, Knold said.

Three of the state economy’s major private sectors saw job gains in June: construction (9,700 jobs); trade, transportation and utilities (1,400); and the financial industry (600). Utah’s job losses last month were heaviest in leisure and hospitality (down 32,000 jobs); professional ad business services (down 8,4000); and manufacturing (down 1,900).

That news came as Amazon announced Friday it was hiring for more than 1,500 new full-time positions for its soon-to-open fulfillment center in West Jordan. The online retailer said the positions — in receiving inventory, picking and shipping customer orders, and supporting network logistics — would be part of a payroll expected to eventually grow to more than 5,000 full-time jobs in Utah.

Amid those signs of hiring, state officials reported Thursday that 4,828 Utahns filed new traditional unemployment claims the week ending July 11 and another 1,493 gig and self-employed workers also filed.

On top of that, 985 residents applied for extensions after running out of regular benefits, according to DWS, for a total of 7,306 new claims last week.

The agency said that 80,048 residents had ongoing unemployment claims as of last week, down by 1,497 claims the week prior — a further indication some Utahns are returning to work with the economy’s reopening.