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December 3, 2013
Unemployment steady at 5.4%

Rate hasn’t changed since August, yet food bank continues to see more families 

The demand for assistance from the Tooele Food Bank continued at record numbers for the second week of November although Tooele County’s unemployment rate for October held steady at the 23-year average of 5.4 percent.

“Our requests for assistance continue to grow with more new families coming in every day,” said Lorri Trujillo-Cook, team leader for the Tooele County Food Bank operated by Valley Behavioral Health.

In the first week of November, the food bank served 671 people, more than it served for the entire month of October. The following week the food bank served 459 people, still a higher than average amount, according to Trujillo-Cook.

“We are still seeing a number of people that used to work at Deseret Chemical Depot that have run out of their severance money and are still looking for work,” she said.

The run on the local food bank also coincides with a reduction in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, which kicked in on Nov. 1, according to Jim Robson, regional economist with the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

The SNAP program received a temporary boost from the 2009 Recovery Act that expired on Nov. 1 and reduced SNAP funding by 5.5 percent.

For a family of four receiving the maximum benefit, the reduction amounts to $36 per month. At an average benefit of $1.40 per meal per person, the $36 dollar reduction means the average family of four on assistance will have six less days of food per month.

This reduction comes at a time when Tooele’s economy is still feeling the effects of the reduction of employees at the county, and in the waste management industry along with the closure of Deseret Chemical Depot, said Robson.

When Tooele County’s economy will pick up and employment rate start to decline is hard to predict, he added.

“I would think that in the near future the unemployment rate will remain unchanged,” said Robson. “It might even drift a little higher as the employment reductions and other situations play out for a while.”

Currently the amount of jobs being created in the leisure and hospitality, retail, health, and transportation industries in Tooele County have not outpaced the loss of jobs the county has experienced in waste management and the federal government, according to Robson.

Non-farm employment in Tooele County dropped from 15,812 in October 2012 to 15,408 in October 2013—a 2.6 percent decline.

With fewer jobs in the county, but unemployment remaining the same, Robson suspects that more local people are commuting out of the county for work.

Tooele County’s unemployment rate has remained at 5.4 percent for three consecutive months since August. The unemployment rate in Tooele County in October 2012 was 6.1 percent.

The national unemployment rate for October 2013 was 7.3 percent. In Utah the October unemployment rate was 4.6 percent.

The county in Utah with the highest October 2013 unemployment rate was Wayne County at 12.8 percent. The lowest unemployment rate for October was in Duschesne County at 3.4 percent.

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