OGDEN — Joblessness in Weber County is down and new claims for jobless benefits continue to fall.
More than 550 firms across the county, meantime, have applied for grant funding thus far to help them deal with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have gotten a very strong response,” said Mark Johnson, chief administrative officer for the city of Ogden.
The news comes as Weber County, like locales across the country, deals with the fallout of COVID-19, which has slowed the economy and caused a jump in joblessness as people scale back their activity to fight its spread.
On the bright side, a pair of key local indicators show that the situation is improving, or at least not as dire as before. The unemployment rate in Weber County measured 5.2% for June, down from 8.7% in May, according to figures released Monday by the Utah Department of Workforce Services, or DWS. While still higher than the pre-coronavirus rate of 3.1% in February, that’s down from this year’s high of 10.7% in April.
Joblessness in Davis totaled 4.7% for June, down from this year’s of high of 9% in April and 7.2% in May, but still higher than the pre-coronavirus figure of 2.8% for February.
Similarly, new claims for jobless benefits — a measure of people losing their jobs and seeking interim help — continue to fall. For the week ending July 11, Weber County reported 320 new claims while the figure was 329 for Davis County, according to DWS data. New claims reached highs of 3,006 in Davis County and 2,506 in Weber County for the week ending April 4, but have been on a downward trajectory since then, same as across the state.
Still, not all the data is rosy. Continued claims for jobless benefits across Utah — that is, claims being made in a given week for the second time or more in a given year — averaged 8,856 in 2019, while the figure for the week ending July 11 totaled 80,048. That’s down from a high of 126,192 in early May.
Kevin Burt, director of the DWS’ Unemployment Insurance Division, warned that the $600 in federal funding now going to weekly unemployment benefit payments will be available for only two more weeks. Still, he found a sliver lining. Thankfully, he said, “there are thousands of jobs available as Utah continues to work towards safe, economic recovery.”
READY TO WORK
Officials across Weber County announced a COVID-19 relief program in late June that could pump nearly $53 million into local businesses, and officials said Monday that response has been strong.
In the city of Ogden, 50 businesses had applied for help via the program, according to Sara Meess, a deputy in Ogden City Business Development. Across the rest of the county, with the exception of Harrisville, which has its own program, 211 firms had submitted completed applications, on top of 311 more incomplete applications, according to Holin Wilbanks, economic development director for Weber County.
“I think people are ready to get back to work,” Wilbanks said. South Ogden businesses accounted for 63 of the 211 applications to the program administered by the county while Roy accounted for 52 more.
Those involved in the Weber County program plan to announced award recipients in early August. Ogden has access to as much as $7.8 million for its program while the Weber County initiative can tap up to $45 million, depending on response for grants funds.
The funds come from the federal CARES Act, meant to fight the economic fallout of COVID-19, and, at the county level at least, grants are available of up to $35,000. The funds are meant for firms adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.