SALT LAKE CITY — More than 33,000 new Utah residents filed for unemployment last week in yet another increase that illustrates the stunning collapse of the global economy as businesses across industries close or suffer while people stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The new filings mark a 16% leap from the previous week and were a staggering 29 times higher than the average weekly claims made last year, according to state figures released Thursday.
The 81,227 people in Utah filing jobless claims mirror national trends: 16.8 million Americans fell into unemployment in the last three weeks.
The three Utah industries that had highest percentage of unemployment for the week ending April 4 were office and administration support (13%), sales (11%) and personal care and service (10%), state figures show.
Utah paid out $6.8 million in claims last week. The state is processing applications in 21 to 30 days, the Utah Department of Workforce Services said in a news release
"We continue to receive new claims at an unprecedented level," said Kevin Burt, Unemployment Insurance Division director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
The outlook is increasingly grim for people looking for jobs. Ryan LaRe, 24, of Salt Lake City has worked as a fundraiser for political campaigns and non-profit organizations, a field that's in turmoil as donations dry up.
He has been looking for work since mid-February. In the few weeks the coronavirus crisis took hold, it was a normal job search, but now nearly every place he's looked has been on a hiring freeze. "The thing I'm going to remember about this most is the level of dread and uncertainty it brings me," LaRe said.
In other developments:
— All five of Utah's national parks are closed after Capitol Reef officials said Thursday they are shutting their gates to prevent further spread of the new coronavirus. The park known for its sandstone cliffs was the last national park still open in Utah after Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands had previously closed under pressure from local government and health officials.
Capitol Reef's decision comes after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Tuesday urged people to stay close to home even though it is Easter week and spring break for many state residents. Park officials referenced Herbert's motto of "stay home, stay safe" in a posting on the Capitol Reef website explaining the decision.
— Herbert is extending his voluntary directive telling people to stay home except for essential errands through the end of April. He is also encouraging people to wear masks when at stores and other businesses to prevent the spread of the virus.
— The nonprofit Refugee Justice League is recommending two new free, web-based programs to help people who can't pay their rent or mortgage because of the coronavirus crisis and need help navigating federal programs designed to give them relief. Hello Lender and Hello Landlord guide people through a series of questions, then generate a formal letter to send to banks or landlords. The programs aren't limited to refugees, but can be especially helpful for them, according to the group of volunteer attorneys.