In April 2020, the Department of Workforce Services warned that the March 2020 monthly unemployment rate did not include the effect of COVID-19 on the labor market.
The April unemployment report, recently released by the DWS, does reflect the impact of COVID-19 on the job market.
Tooele County’s unemployment level rose from 3.4% in March 2020 to 10.3% in April 2020.
Statewide the April 2020 unemployment rate was 9.7% with the national unemployment rate reaching 14.7%.
For Tooele County, the 10.3% is a new record high, exceeding the 8.6% set in November and December of 2010 during the Great Recession.
A state economist said the high unemployment rates during the COVID-19 pandemic are different from the unemployment rates of the recession.
“The April survey offers Utah its first measured glimpse into the coronavirus’ economic impact,” reported Mark Knold, Chief Economist at the Department of Workforce Services. “Utah’s strong economy preceding this pandemic offered more cushion against disruption than seen across the rest of the country, thus Utah’s more moderate setback. The current situation differs from other national downturns in that this is disaster-related and many separated workers are anticipating a return to work when circumstances allow. Other downturns generally feature permanent job separations.”
At 10.3% unemployment, Tooele County had 3,430 unemployed workers looking for work in April 2020 compared to 1,090 in February 2020.
Statewide the Department of Workforce Services said there is evidence that some of those workers are eotherretruring to work or finding new jobs as the number of people ending their unemployment benefits has started to exceed the number of new unemployment claims filed.
The COVID-19 pandemic also appeared to end Tooele County’s growth in the local job market. Jobs in Tooele County have been on an upward trend since 2014, rising from 14,824 in April 2014 to 16,455 in April 2019.
In April 2020 the number of jobs in Tooele Country dropped to 15,271, according to the DWS report. The March 2020 Tooele County job figure was 16,610.
Cathy Stromberg, branch manager at Ascend Staffing, said despite the high unemployment rate, she has plenty of jobs available in Tooele County and even more for people willing to travel outside of the county for work.
Currently Stromberg said she has a variety of local jobs available, including work at Purple and Creative Mines, and jobs for those who are willing to commute at Lifetime products in Layton.
“The jobs we have available start at $13 per hour and up,” Stromberg said.
Wage wise, Tooele County jobs have lagged behind the state average for monthly wages since the 2nd quarter of 2014.
That’s due to the closure of the chemical weapons destruction operations, which lead to the loss of many high paying jobs in the county, according to the DWS.
In the 4th quarter of 2014, the average monthly wage paid in Tooele County was $3,586, which was $72 ahead of the state average monthly wage. In the 2nd quarter of 2014, the average monthly wage in Tooele County dipped to $3,546 or $8, or 2%, below the state average.
The monthly wage gap between Tooele County and the state average has widened to 16.2% as of the 4th quarter of 2019, the latest time period that DWS has reported at this time.
The next report of county level employment data is expected to be released on June 22.
Following U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics methods, unemployment statistics are based on the pay period that includes the 12th of the month.
The May 2020 report will reflect the state and county’s change from the red risk level to the orange risk level, but its data will have been collected prior to the change to the yellow risk level.