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PM News Brief: Gun arrest at East High, Utah’s unemployment numbers & more backcountry emergencies

A photo of East High School.
Jeff Hitchcock
/
Flickr
Salt Lake City Police arrested a student at East High School Friday who brought a gun to school.

Friday evening, Dec. 17, 2021

State

Utah’s unemployment rate well below the nation’s

Unemployment in Utah remains at record low rates. According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, November’s unemployment rate was at 2.1% — half the national rate. About 34,500 Utahns are unemployed. Labor shortages have been a problem nationwide. But Utah’s chief economist said while the state’s available labor force is shrinking, its economy is growing, which he said means the state’s labor needs are being met. — Caroline Ballard

State defends relationship with Church on welfare

Gov. Spencer Cox is defending the state’s welfare system. A recent ProPublica report found that over the last decade Utah has counted $75 million in welfare spending from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints towards its own federal obligations. Cox said the relationship between the Department of Workforce Services, the Church and other partners allows the state’s money to go further. He also said Utah is spending more on poverty now than it ever has before, and Utah has the second lowest poverty rate in the nation. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Another Utah student arrested for bringing a gun to school

Salt Lake City Police arrested a student at East High School Friday who brought a gun to school. East High administrators told the school’s resource officers about a social media post that allegedly showed a student holding a gun. Police said when that individual arrived at the school, they were taken into custody. Officers found a handgun and ammunition in their backpack. The student is currently being held at the Salt Lake Valley Detention Center. Similar threats were made nationwide Friday after an internet challenge encouraged kids to threaten violence at their schools. — Caroline Ballard

Controversial Uinta Basin Railway gets green light

A federal agency has approved construction of the Uinta Basin Railway in eastern Utah. It’ll transport crude oil out of the region and increase production. State leaders applauded this week’s decision, saying the 85-mile railway will connect the region’s oil production to wider markets and increase economic activity. The project is expected to cost around $1.4 billion. Environmental groups say they’ll continue to fight the railway. Deeda Seed, with the Center for Biological Diversity, said it’ll degrade local habitats and air quality. A right of way for the project is pending final approval from the U.S. Forest Service. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery

Region/Nation

Backcountry emergencies on the rise

Many volunteer back-country rescue groups saw record increases in emergency calls this year. In Teton County, Wyoming, a rescue group had a nearly 30% increase, but they said the number of people in the backcountry is growing at an even faster rate. One search and rescue volunteer said that could partially be because novices tend to stay closer to town or trails, and with more people out, it’s harder to get lost and easier to find help. Some other groups saw more extreme weather and heat-related calls. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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