New Census Bureau estimates show pandemic’s economic sting in Utah

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) LouJean Wilson, left, helps Lynette and Craig Bushman pick out food at the Taylorsville Food Pantry on Saturday, May 30, 2020.

New Census Bureau estimates help show how deep the economic sting of the pandemic is in Utah.

For example, more than 11,000 Utah adults say it is very or somewhat likely that they will lose their homes to foreclosure within the next two months. Another 8,400 who are renting say it is very or somewhat likely that they will be evicted.

Combined, that’s the equivalent to the population of Brigham City fearing that they will lose their homes.

That emerges from a second round of experimental polling by the Census Bureau to measure some of the economic effects of COVID-19. It earlier conducted a 12-week series of such surveys. The newest estimates comes from the first week in a new series that was conducted Aug. 19-31.

It now estimates that 821,472 Utah adults, or 36% of the total, lost some household employment income since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March 13. Also, 375,029 — about 1 of every 6 — expect to lose employment income in the next four weeks (that was still second-lowest in the nation behind only Wisconsin).

It also found that nearly half of Utah adults — 45.6% — report that someone in their home moved at least partially to teleworking at home during the pandemic. That was the third highest rate among the states, behind only Massachusetts and Maryland.

The survey found that many Utahns are struggling with rent or mortgage payments.

Among adults living in owner-occupied housing with mortgages, 4.3% said they were behind on payments. Of those, 11,564 — or 26% of them — said it is very or somewhat likely they will lose their homes to foreclosure over the next two months.

Among renters, 4.3% of adults also said they are behind on payments. Of those who are in arrears, 8,435 — or 41% of the total — said it is very or somewhat likely that they will be evicted within the next two months.

The survey asked Utahns how they are making ends meet during the current recession.

It found that 73.5% are simply relying on their employment income.

But 24.3% are dipping into savings or selling assets; 23.5% are using credit cards or loans; 8.9% have borrowed money from friends or family; 5.8% are using unemployment insurance; 22.5% are using money from stimulus checks; and 3.8% are using money from debts that were reduced or forgiven. (The numbers add up to more than 100% because a significant number of people use several of those options.)

The survey asked those who were unemployed the reason for that.

Among reasons: 39% were retired; 9.2% were watching children who were not in day care or school; 4% were sick with COVID-19 symptoms; 4% did not work because of concern about getting or spreading the virus; 4.4% were sick with non-COVID-19 illnesses; 4.6% worked for a firm that had reduced business because of the pandemic; 3.2% worked for a business that temporarily closed because of the pandemic; and 5.2% were laid off because of COVID-19.

Utahns are now better able to obtain enough food compared to last spring, the survey says.

It found that only 4.8% now report that they often or sometimes could not find enough food to eat (third best among the states). That is down from 32% in a similar survey on May 14-19, when shortages at stores were common along with loss of income that made it difficult for some to buy supplies.

The current survey showed that 61.1% of Utah adults reported that they are finding enough food of the types they like to eat; 24.7% said they find enough to eat, but not always of the types they like; 4.4% said they sometimes do not find enough to eat; and 0.4% said they often do not find enough food.

Not surprisingly, the new survey also shows that people in lower income ranges more often report loss of employment income than those who are wealthy — and also expect more future challenges.

For example, 40% of Utah adults who had incomes of less than $25,000 a year said they or a household member lost employment income since the pandemic began (the highest of any income group). The lowest rate for any group was 23.2% among those with incomes between $150,000 and $200,000 a year.

Also, 27.4% of Utahns with incomes between $25,000 and $35,000 expect to lose employment income in the next four weeks (the highest among income groups), while only 11.4% do among those whose incomes are between $100,000 and $150,000.