Utah’s unemployment rate in July was the lowest in the country

Unemployment in Utah declined for a third straight month in July, giving the state a jobs outlook substantially better than any other state.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that Utah’s 4.5% unemployment rate was the country’s lowest and well below the national average of 10.2%.

In signs of further recovery from the pandemic, four of the Beehive State’s 10 major industries added jobs in July — with construction leading the way — although overall employment growth still slowed from levels set in May and June, a top analyst said.

“While the pace of job gains moderated a bit compared to the prior two months, the Utah economy is rebounding with vigor,” said Mark Knold, chief economist for the state Department of Workforce Services.

Utah was among 30 states that saw overall unemployment fall in July, as the nation continued to revitalize portions of its economy battered by the health crisis even as daily numbers of new COVID-19 cases rose in many areas.

Nearly 72,900 Utahns were nonetheless out of work last month, the state reported. Private-sector employment overall in July was 2.3% below where it was the same time last year.

And in spite of its upward trend in labor markets since May, Utah also lost jobs in July in key sectors, primarily leisure and hospitality, education, health care and professional and business services, according to the Department of Workforce Services.

The apparent impact of unpredictable consumer demand and ongoing health worries was especially heavy last month for Utah’s leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels, bars, restaurants and public events. That sector shed 30,000 jobs in July.

New applications for unemployment benefits in Utah ticked up slightly last week, after four weeks of steady declines. The state reported that 5,321 residents filed new claims the week ending Aug. 15, including 820 independent contractors and self-employed Utahns and another 1,497 who were seeking extended benefits after other aid ran out.

But ongoing jobless claims in Utah have declined steadily since their peak of 126,192 in early May and stood at 66,984 last week, DWS said, as more residents return to employment.

Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune

Also as of last week, the state of Utah began requiring that furloughed workers also apply for other openings each week in order to qualify for benefits.

Nationwide, Nebraska has the second lowest jobless rate behind Utah in July, at 4.8%, followed by Idaho, at 5.0%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Massachusetts topped the country last month, with a rate of 16.1%, and New York was close behind, at 15.9%.

The July unemployment rates in New York, New Mexico (12.7%), and Connecticut (10.2%) set all-time record highs for those states.