Utah hits 150,000 new unemployment filings in seven weeks

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Utah employment numbers are bleak, but not as bleak as the national numbers.

From February to March, state unemployment increased by 1.1% to 3.6%. This is the second largest monthly increase in the past 45 years. Only in late 2008 was there a larger monthly unemployment increase (1.4%).1 The state’s unemployment rate will jump much higher for April.

In February, the U.S. unemployment rate hit a 50 year low (3.5%). Nationally, unemployment jumped from 4.4% in March to 14.7% in April – the largest increase since 1945 (the year Utah Foundation was formed) and the highest rate seen since the Great Depression.2

However, Utah’s official April unemployment rate isn’t expected to be as high as the national rate. Utah’s number of unemployment filings3 as of May 2 was 6.2% (the third lowest in the nation). This compares to 15.1% nationally.

Nonetheless, another 9,057 Utahns filed for unemployment as of May 2, which brings the total number of new filings in Utah to nearly 150,000 over the course of seven weeks. There are over 100,000 “continuing” filings, which means that many people that filed for unemployment have already gone back to work.

Compare this 100,000 to the average number of continuing filings during the Great Recession – about 25,000.

Utah’s increase in March unemployment comes with a caveat: Utahns not looking for work are not counted in the state unemployment rate. If the same number of Utahns had remained engaged in the labor force from February to March, the state unemployment rate would have increased to 4.0% (instead of 3.6%), which would have marked the highest monthly increase in unemployment ever.4 But even that number will be smashed by the April increase.

Rural Utah was hit hardest by the initial increase in unemployment. Duchesne, Garfield, San Juan and Uintah counties saw the state’s largest increases.5 The increases in Duchesne and Uintah are largely due to the decrease in those counties’ oil production. We’ll return to you soon with updated county percentages showing whether that trend continued through April.

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, seasonally adjusted state employment numbers.
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary, May 8, 2020, www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, seasonally adjusted national employment numbers.
  3. “Unemployment filings” are the percent of the civilian labor force that has applied for or is currently receiving unemployment benefits.
  4. Utah Foundation calculations.
  5. Utah Department of Workforce Services, seasonally adjusted unemployment rates.