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Unemployment numbers looking better in Utah

The Utah Department of Workforce Services building in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday, April 2, 2020. Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – The global pandemic caused a huge increase in the unemployment rate in Utah. In February, the unemployment rate sat at 2.5%. In April, that number jumped to 9.7%. 

However, there is some good news on the horizon. 

The unemployment rate in Utah is one of the lowest in the country.

During KSL NewsRadio’s Coronavirus Call-In program, the Unemployment Insurance Division Director for the Department of Workforce Services, Kevin Burt, said they’re trying to process three years’ worth of unemployment filings. But the numbers are looking better. 

“We see a lot more people falling off [unemployment] than refusals to work. The last data we reported, actually more people fell off than applied,” Burt said. 

Additionally, unemployment filings decreased by about 10,000 within the last two weeks. 

Of the 150,000 unemployment filings the state has received, 100,000 are “continuing” filings, which refers to those who were furloughed and/or have gone back to work in some capacity. The majority of Utahns who filed for unemployment were furloughed or had their hours reduced. 

Burt encouraged employees who are healthy, at low risk of catching COVID-19, and can return to work safely, to do so.

Although Utah has seen very few instances where employees have stayed off the job because the unemployment benefits were better, Burt noted employers can report people to the state. 

“If a person is not high-risk, the employer is following the guidelines, and that person refuses work, it will lead to a ‘quit’, which will make the person lose eligibility to unemployment,” Burt explained. 

Burt said they do make exceptions for high-risk employees and encourage businesses to let those people stay home.