Utah’s unemployment claims decrease; jobs most likely to weather struggling economy

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Nearly 12,000 Utahns filed for unemployment benefits for the first time during the week of April 19. This brings the Beehive State’s total to 105,000 people now jobless, said Kevin Burt with the Department of Workforce Services.

He said this week’s new claims show a decreasing trend in unemployment, but the numbers are still historic.  

“For perspective, it’s important to understand that that is still a historic volume of claims,” Burt said. “Historically, the highest number of claims we received in a week, prior to the pandemic, was five thousand. And that was during the federal government shut down in 2013.”

As the economy continues to struggle due to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, University of Utah economist Stephen Bannister said those who are considered critical to the economy are those who work in the medical field, information, transportation, grocery stores, utility and public safety jobs.

He said these employees – as well as those who can work from home – make up about 30 percent of the workforce.

“While those critical jobs I mentioned are the ones that are essential in the short run, it’s to keeping the economy limping along until we get to some kind of recovery,” Bannister said.

And while critical and remote jobs are keeping the economy afloat right now, Bannister said the most important job in the economy is you.

“We as individual people, most of us wear two hats,” Bannister said. “We’re a consumer, we buy things. And, we’re in the labor force, so we produce something.”

Even though the state saw a slight decline in unemployment declarations, Bannister believes the economy won’t fully recover until the disease is under control.

“We need to do more testing, tracking or tracing for the people that test positive, and to quarantine to make sure they’re away from other people,” Bannister said.

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