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Utah Unemployment Jumps 2,400%

Coronavirus causes Utah's employment rates to jump 2,400%, many coming from food industry layoffs.
Robert Couse-Baker
Kevin Burt, the director of the Unemployment Division at Utah's DWS, said the 2,400% increase in claims is straining his staff and phonelines, but benefits are going out.

Utah’s average number of unemployment claims per week was 1,131 last year, according to Kevin Burt, the Unemployment Division director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Last week, the Department of Workforce Services saw more than a 1,300% increase in unemployment claims due to the coronavirus. This week, it’s up 2,400%.

Due to the “great economy” in 2019, Burt said Utah's unemployment numbers were at historic lows.

But from March 15-21 of this year, 19,591 claims were filed. 

“It's just an unprecedented volume," Burt said in a press conference. "Overnight, it increased by 2,400%.”

Burt said this is the highest number of claims the department has seen — even more than when the federal shutdown of 2013 occurred.

“We saw about 5000 claims a week during that federal shutdown. We're receiving about 5000 a day during this, and the reason why is because this, of course impacts much more than the federal employees," he said. "During the Great Recession at its peak, we were also receiving about 5000 a week.”

Unemployment benefits were never intended to be a 100% replacement for lost wages, according to Burt. Due to the coronavirus and advice to stay at home rather than actively looking for new jobs, he said every claimant will receive an additional $600 under the new stimulus bill.

Burt said the department is seeing 38% more money going out to help claimants, but due to the increase in volume of claims and low staffing, the process to file a claim normally takes 21 days but may now take up to 30. He also added that self-employment claims are unavailable at this time.

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