Pandemic has pushed 160K Utah residents into jobless ranks

A “we give up” sign is shown outside Euro Treasures Antiques Friday, April 24, 2020, in Salt Lake City. With customers staying home, Salt Lake City antique store is forced to close. Scott Evans is closing his art and antique store after 40 years. This year started out well for his business, then COVID-19 hit, along with shelter-in-place orders. With a drastic drop in customers, Evans says it was no longer cost effective to stay open. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Nearly 160,000 Utah residents have applied for unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the U.S. in mid-March, new state figures released Thursday show.

That represents about 11% of the total workforce in Utah that is eligible for the unemployment insurance program.

The 6,275 unemployment claims made in the week ending May 16 marked a 12% decrease from the previous week. It was the sixth consecutive week claims have decreased since a peak of 33,000 were filed during the week ending April 4.

But the weekly total was still more than any single week on record prior to the pandemic, including during the height of the Great Recession in 2009 when the high was about 5,000 in one week, state officials say.

It was also an increase of 599% from the number of applications submitted during the same week last year.

Utah contributed to a national increase of 1033% in the seasonally adjusted number of claims over the same week last year.

Utah paid out nearly $29 million in unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total since mid-March to nearly $147 million, state figures show.

An additional $235 million has been doled out to the jobless in Utah from federal stimulus funds.

In other coronavirus developments:

— An outdoor concert sponsored by a group protesting closures due to coronavirus has moved locations after an outcry.

The show by country singer Collin Raye is now planned for an amphitheater near Grantsville, after pushback from city council members and others worried it could be a threat to public health 50 miles (80 kilometers) away in Kaysville, according to a statement from the group Utah Businesses Revival.

The May 30 show accompanied by local business booths will likely draw a far larger crowd than the 50-person limit on gathering under state public health directives.

Still, the state looks unlikely to intervene. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has questioned the need for the protest as the state loosens rules that were always less restrictive than other states, but said there’s likely a way to hold the event without breaking health rules.

Attendees are being asked to social distance and invited to wear masks if they choose.

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