Unemployment spikes again; last Utah national park closes

A man walks past the Utah Department of workforce Services Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Salt Lake City. With a startling 6.6 million people seeking unemployment benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark: More than one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — 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.

Utah’s economic woes 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.

In Idaho, another 31,000 residents filed for unemployment benefits last week as the state’s economy shed thousands of jobs for the third consecutive week. The Idaho Department of Labor said Thursday that nearly 78,000 people have filed claims since mid-March.

Republican Gov. Brad Little issued an emergency declaration on March 13 because of the coronavirus and followed with a statewide stay-at-home order on March 25. Workers of all ages are being affected, with hard-hit sectors including accommodations, food services, health care and construction.

Idaho has more than  1,230 virus cases and 18 deaths.

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.

“The goals of the directive are to flatten the curve, reduce potential impacts to local communities, reduce the strain on hospitals and the healthcare system, and minimize the impact on medical resources for those with highest need,” park officials said.

Many of America’s most popular parks have closed, including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains and Glacier, even after Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in mid-March waived entrance fees to make it easier for people to enjoy outdoor spaces. Bernhardt authorized park superintendents to make their own decisions about what’s needed to adhere to recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also on Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office reminded residents to heed Herbert’s order to only visit state parks still open that are in their own counties.

Associated Press writer Keith Ridler contributed to this report

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