Utah unemployment remains at record highs, but moves lower

A man walks past the Utah Department of workforce Services Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Salt Lake City. With a startling 6.6 million people seeking unemployment benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark: More than one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Unemployment slowed somewhat again in Utah last week, but jobless claims remained crushingly high during the coronavirus pandemic that’s dealt a body blow to the economy, state officials said Thursday.

About 19,800 people filed for unemployment last week, down from more than 24,000 the week before.

“We are encouraged to see another decrease in new claims filed, though we continue to receive them at record levels,” said Kevin Burt, unemployment insurance division director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, in a statement.

Average weekly claims last year were about 1,100, a small fraction of last week’s total.

The state paid out more than $17 million in benefits last week and distributed $42.6 million in federal stimulus money through a program that bolsters unemployment by $600 a week.

Last week was the second time since the coronavirus crisis hit that unemployment claims ticked downward from a staggering high of 33,000 three weeks ago.

Though food and beverage workers took the brunt on the layoffs at first, administrative workers have formed the largest portion of the claims more recently.

Nationally, new claims decreased somewhat as well, but the combined impact has left a stunning 1 in 6 American workers out of work, a level last seen during the Great Depression. More than 4.4 million new workers applied for unemployment benefits in the U.S. last week. In all, about 26 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the past five weeks.

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