SALT LAKE CITY — The volume of first-time requests for unemployment compensation declined slightly, according to new data from the latest week available.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services reported Thursday that the number of total new claims filed for unemployment benefits registered 4,386 for the week of Dec. 6 through Dec. 12, compared to 4,758 the previous week.

The report also indicates there were 26,442 continued unemployment claims filed during that same week.

Eight to nine months after the initial stages of the pandemic, Utah continues to see about four times more weekly claims than it did during 2019, said Unemployment Insurance Division director Kevin Burt, adding that has been some progress made of late.

“(In the category of) the traditional state benefit, new claims went down by 6.7%,” he said. “The pandemic unemployment assistance — which is the unemployment for the self-employed — temporary program, went down 5.7% and the extended benefit, which is an additional 13 weeks of federally funded benefits that is also temporary, also went down 16.3%.”

With many federally funded jobless assistance programs set to end later this month, state officials are continuing to urge individuals to seek new employment before those benefits run out.

“There continues to be national discussions regarding federally funded unemployment benefit extensions, as the Dec. 26, 2020, expiration date for both the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and 13-week extended benefits is fast approaching,” said Burt.

“Regardless of the outcome of those discussions, we continue to strongly encourage those receiving unemployment benefits to actively look for work, as Utah’s economy remains resilient and offers a multitude of employment opportunities.”

In examining the drastic increase in the number of claims processed by the division for jobless benefits this year compared to last year, Burt said volume has been historic.

“We have 362,884 new claims that have been filed since March 15,” he said. “For comparison, last year we took 63,000 claims for the entire year.

“We have paid out $1.65 billion in unemployment benefits, since March 15. Last year we paid out a total of $150 million in benefits.”

Burt said that with the historically high volume of claims, some claimants may experience overpayment. In such cases, individuals may be responsible for repaying any amounts deemed above their allotted benefit.

“It’s very critical to make sure that people who are eligible for the benefit receive it, but also to make sure people who are not eligible for the benefit, do not receive it,” he said. ”The most common mistakes that people make when it comes to creating overpayments are on those continued weekly claims. (The system) will ask you, very directly every single week, the factors of eligibility, and as long as you are accurate and honest in the answers to those questions you will not experience overpayments.”

He added that people who are not really applying for jobs but report that they are, people who are not available for work but report that they are, or people who are working but report that they are not working, those actions will result in overpayments, which will be pursued by the state.

In order to be able to replenish the Utah Unemployment Trust Fund, keep employer tax rates low and maintain the integrity of the system, claimants must be truthful and honest in their weekly reporting.

“If you receive an overpayment, (the system) will provide information on how you can contact (DWS) to start to resolve that,” Burt said. “But for those of you who have not gotten a letter of an overpayment, please make sure every single week you do continue to claim that you are accurate in every single attestation. If not, it will likely result in an overpayment that must be paid back.”