Officials urge Utahns to continue seeking job opportunities amid pandemic

Oct 22, 2020, 5:05 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — Although jobless claims in Utah are still high, officials at the Department of Workforce Services say they’re optimistic for the future. 

The department reported 4,264 new unemployment compensation claims for the week of Oct. 11-17. When adding that figure to the number of continuing claims (those who are renewing unemployment benefits rather than applying for the first time), Utah paid benefits to 38,843 people who are out of work. That’s a drop from the 42,229 the week before. 

“Utah’s economy has proven to be very diverse, very resilient,” said Kevin Burt, director of the unemployment insurance division. “There are some industries that are really doing very well and growing, so we encourage people to actively look for work, even if it’s in an industry that they have not worked before.”

Although the number of jobless claims in Utah is up nearly four times the amount it was a year ago, the agency reported a decrease in weekly requests. 

That’s a good sign, Burt said. He also urged Utahns dealing with unemployment to continue looking for jobs. 

“The employment insurance program will not last the length of this pandemic,” Burt said during the department’s weekly press conference. “It has been a generous benefit to provide that safety net for the last several months, but it will not last beyond those 39 weeks.”

Although the unemployment rate grew to 5% for the month of September — up from 4.1% the month before — officials said this may be because more Utahns are entering the job market. 

Utah’s labor participation rate increased from 67.4% to 68.8% — meaning more Utahns are actively seeking employment.

“What this says is that individuals who have been discouraged and decided to retract themselves from that market have decided to re-enter,” said Taylor Randall, economic recovery lead for Utah’s Unified Response Team. “So the good news is we have more Utahns looking for work.”

This comes as the U.S. average labor participation rate dropped from 61.7% to 61.4%. 

“We know that we have many jobs that are out there and ready for people to jump into,” Randall said.

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Officials urge Utahns to continue seeking job opportunities amid pandemic