Utah’s unemployment dropped to 4.1% in October, almost half the national rate

(AP file photo) An "Open For Business" sign on front Maxwell's East Coast Eatery in Salt Lake City, as seen in September. Utah’s unemployment rate fell back to 4.1% in October, according to the Labor Department, compared to 6.9% for the U.S. as a whole.

Utah’s unemployment rate dropped in October to 4.1%, its lowest level since the pandemic began.

The state had reached that same level in August, according to data from the Labor Department — only to jump to 5% in September as more residents left jobless rolls and searched for work, before settling back to 4.1% again last month.

The U.S jobless rate for October also fell, from 7.9% to 6.9%, the Labor Department said.

The latest numbers indicate some 67,200 Utahns remained unemployed as of last month, bringing overall employment in the state for October to just 0.5% below where it was the same time last year.

Mark Knold, chief economist for the state Department of Workforce Services, said the state continues to push down its jobs losses due to the coronavirus outbreak. Bringing those to zero, he said in a statement, would mark a national milestone — and the state is close.

“Not only would it be the launching point from which Utah’s economy will once again grow,” Knold said Friday, “but it would mark Utah as one of the first states to regain economic expansion.”

Yet new data on weekly unemployment shows the number of residents submitting new applications for jobless aid has moved upward since Halloween, a continued sign of COVID-19 related disruption along with seasonal trends.

Kevin Burt, who heads Utah’s unemployment insurance system, said state officials are expecting further increases in claims during the winter months.

Some 4,615 Utahns filed new weekly claims last week, with nearly 719 of them gig workers and other self-employed residents and another 765 applicants seeking extended pandemic assistance, after traditional aid has run out.

The state reports that a total of 28,168 Utahns filing ongoing unemployment claims in the week ending Nov. 4. That number has fallen steadily since May 2, when it reached an all-time peak of 127,532 residents. But state officials say it remains high by historic standards at almost four times the average weekly levels leading into the pandemic.

Friday’s report said half of Utah’s 10 major private sectors gained jobs in October, with employment in trade, transportation and utilities leading the way. That sector added 10,500 positions for the month, while construction gained 5,100 jobs and the financial, services and manufacturing sectors also gained.

Leisure and hospitality businesses in Utah, though, lost 21,700 jobs in the last month, the state reported. Professional and businesses services, information technology, education and health, and the mining sector also shed jobs last month.