The COVID-19 pandemic has had an ongoing economic impact on Tooele County, including its employers and employees.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses lost revenues and workers lost jobs,” reads a Utah Department of Workforce Services report on local economic impacts of the pandemic.
“But because of the time it takes to collect and collate data, economists have been left without much information to quantify the economic impacts at the local level,” the report continues.
The DWS reports that Tooele County may be faring better than other places in the state.
“Overall, Tooele County’s economy is weathering the global pandemic better than the rest of the state,” reads a comment by a DWS regional economist on a snapshot report of Tooele County.
A June 2020 report shows that Tooele County added 253 local jobs in June 2020, compared to June 2019 for a 1.6% increase.
During the same time period, the statewide average was a loss of 3.3%.
A more recent report shows that the preliminary data for November 2020 puts Tooele County at a 0.2% local job gain, compared to a statewide loss of 0.2%.
As of the end of the second quarter of 2020, Tooele County’s taxable sales increased by 33.4% over the second quarter of 2019, compared to a statewide increase of 6.4%.
However, Tooele County’s unemployment rate sits at 5.4%, according to the November 2020 preliminary data, compared to a reported statewide unemployment rate of 4.3% for November 2020.
When looking at unemployment claims, the DWS advises to keep in mind that, in addition to individuals drawing unemployment benefits, the unemployment rate includes those entering and re-entering the workforce and unoncovered groups without current employment.
There also is a requirement that people counted as unemployed must actually make a minimal effort at seeking employment.
This means the number of unemployed will be greater than the number of unemployment claimants. In “normal” times, only about 40% of the unemployed are claiming benefits, according to the DWS.
Tooele County total first-time unemployment claims filed during the pandemic are much lower than Salt Lake County’s, but Salt Lake County has far more employed people covered by unemployment benefits.
Salt Lake County had 15% of their covered employees file first-time unemployment benefit claims during the pandemic so far, but Tooele County has had 32% of their covered employee file for benefits for the first time during the pandemic.
“Unknown industries” accounted for 373 new unemployment claims out of Tooele County, corresponding to a sizable 13% of the claims in the county.
Other large shares of the initial claims in Tooele come from administrative support/waste management/remediation, healthcare/social assistance, manufacturing and professional scientific and technical service, according to the DWS report.
Other high-claims industries include arts/entertainment/recreation, retail trade and healthcare and social assistance — reflecting the cessation of medical elective procedures and visits.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Salt Lake and Tooele Counties saw an average of 492 and 31 first-time claims per week. In the weeks since the restrictions, those numbers skyrocketed to 8,270 average weekly claims for Salt Lake and 387 in Tooele. This is an increase of 1,580% and 1,133% respectively, according to the DWS report.
In Salt Lake County, where a large majority of Tooele County’s workforce travels to find jobs, the November data shows that Salt Lake County is down 11,169 jobs over November 2019, a 1.5% decrease.