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Utah Sees Another Major Spike In Unemployment Claims

Photo illustration of unemployment application forms
The Department of Workforce Services reported a new record in unemployment applications filed last week.

Utah, along with the rest of the country, continues to see huge spikes in the number of workers filing for unemployment claims. 

From March 22-28, the Department of Workforce Services received 28,560 unemployment applications, up 46% from the previous week’s record and more than 2,400% from average weekly claims in 2019.

By comparison, the state’s average weekly claims during the Great Recession reached up to about 5,000. 

Food prep and service workers filed the most claims, and nearly half of all claims came from Salt Lake County residents.

Kevin Burt, director of the state’s unemployment office, said the numbers are unprecedented but not surprising given how much the economy has slowed along with efforts to keep the coronavirus at bay. 

He said the department is working hard to process the surge but there will be some delays. The normal 21-day wait period could be extended up to 30 days.

“It is definitely a strain on the workers,” Burt said, adding that claimants can help speed up the process by applying online, rather than calling, and keeping up with weekly statements. He also said to avoid calling with questions about claims or updates as it can slow the department’s ability to process claims. 

“What happens is we pull off people who are normally processing the claims to be able to respond to those phone calls,” he said. “In the end, it's delaying those processing timeframes.”

Instead, the office will call anyone if it has questions, he said, so there is no need to get in touch with them. 

Burt said right now people are still receiving about 40-50% of their lost wages — average for unemployment benefits — but after the recent federal relief package they can soon expect to see an additional $600 a week, which will be automatically added to checks. 

The state is waiting on guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor before it can distribute the extra money. But he said, they expect to hear back next week. Once it does, those who have filed already will have the money added retroactively as well as going forward.

Jon Reed is a reporter for KUER. Follow him on Twitter @reedathonjon

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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