SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Workforce Services Thursday reported the number of new claims filed last week for unemployment benefits statewide was 4,193, an 8% drop from the previous week.
There were 50,025 people in Utah filing continuing claims during the week ending Sept. 12, compared to 54,661 for the week ending Sept. 5.
Last month, Utah registered the lowest jobless rate in the nation at 4.5%.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to look for opportunities because we do know the unemployment benefit will not provide long-term stability through the length of this pandemic,” Unemployment Insurance Division Director Kevin Burt said. “It has provided that stability through the first six months, but it will not continue beyond the 13-week extended benefit.”
Burt noted that the agency has paid out more than $1.4 billion in unemployment benefits over the last six months, since the beginning of the major impact of the pandemic.
That number has impacted the fund that pays benefits.
Burt said Utah employers should expect a slight increase in their employer taxes used to help fund the state Unemployment Trust Fund. He added that despite the historic nature of the unemployment problem, the trust fund is still among the most stable in the country.
“We’ll be announcing the tax rates to all employers in November so that they can be prepared for those taxes in calendar year 2021. We are currently not projecting insolvency, meaning that we pay out more benefits than are available in the fund,” Burt said. “It is important to note that over 20 states have already gone insolvent across the nation. So Utah with its solvent trust fund, as well as its diverse economy, we believe we’re going to avoid insolvency, but it will result in a small increase in taxes in 2021.”
The Associated Press reported the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to 860,000, a historically high number of people that illustrates the broad economic damage still taking place nine months after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the U.S. The Labor Department said Thursday that U.S. jobless claims fell by 33,000 from the previous week and that 12.6 million people are collecting traditional unemployment benefits, compared with just 1.7 million a year ago.
The pandemic has delivered a colossal shock to the economy. Until the pandemic upended the operations of American companies, from factories to family diners, weekly jobless aid applications had never exceeded 700,000 in the U.S. They’ve topped 700,000 for 26 consecutive weeks.
The economy and job market have recovered somewhat from the initial shock as employers added 10.6 million jobs from May through August, but that’s still less than half the jobs lost in March and April, the AP reported.
”Layoffs remain widespread and a historically high number of individuals are still receiving some type of jobless benefits,” Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, wrote in a research report. “Failure on the part of policymakers to enact another fiscal relief package poses significant downside risks to the economy and labor market as the recovery appears to be losing momentum.’’
President Donald Trump issued an executive order Aug. 8 providing a scaled-back version of the expanded jobless aid. Most states signed up for federal grants that let them increase weekly benefits by $300 or $400, that program is expiring.
Utah is part of that program.
“We are happy to report that the first three weeks of Lost Wages Assistance began to be paid last week and the final three weeks of benefits began this week,” Burt said. “Lost Wages Assistance is one of eight new federal programs that have been successfully stood up by the Unemployment Insurance Division since mid-March to help Utahns that have seen their employment disrupted due to this pandemic.”
The program is available to each state for the six-week period from July 26 through Sept. 5. The six-weeks limit was a result of high state participation and available funding for the program. Eligibility is determined for an individual if their weekly unemployment benefit amount was at least $100, they qualified for one of the standard unemployment programs during the applicable time period and they were unemployed or partially unemployed as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Benefits are automatically calculated and distributed to qualified people during the month of September based on previously received unemployment claims.