Salt Lake and Tooele county residents can apply for unemployment claims over the telephone rather than going into the nearest Utah Department of Employment Security office thanks to a pilot program.

By July 1, state officials believe the program known as Remote Initial Claims could be expanded to the entire state, making the filing of 60,000 annual unemployment insurance claims easier.Salt Lake and Tooele residents can call 526-4400 and file their claims over the telephone, and people visiting the offices in person will be advised of the telephone method. State officials said the telephone application will take 20 minutes vs. the traditional two or three hours it takes when filing a claim in person.

The Utah Department of Unemployment Security is now part of the Department of Workforce Services. Robert Gross, DWS executive director, said the telephone program "fits perfectly with our department vision of providing exceptional customer service."