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Coronavirus Call-in: Utah economy can bounce back, says expert

Of the 150,000 new unemployment filings since March, 100,000 are still actively looking for a job(Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Jobless claims in Utah and the nation have spiked through the roof of the U.S. economy. Is it going to get even worse? An expert says the state economy has the essential parts already in place to return to financial fitness.

Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, and Nate McDonald of the state Coronavirus Task Force joined Jeff Caplan to answer your questions about how the state is working to slow the  spread of COVID-19 and what that means for business.

How much worse?

Jeff noted that last year at this time there were 885 claims for unemployment in Utah. Last week, Utah’s Department of Workforce Services saw 19,591 new filings. Nationwide, nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, which is almost five times the previous high set in 1982. Two weeks earlier, the unemployment claims were 211,000, nearly at a half-century low.

Jeff asked McDonald: How much worse are we expecting the economy to get?

“We’re looking at the data. We’re analyzing it. And right now with the unemployment claims, that’s something that we’re definitely going to be watching and looking at those numbers weekly,” he said.

“And really it’s something that we’re taking one day at a time, one week at a time, and looking at where things are going with our health department and the guidance they’re giving, and also with the state and local officials and the direction they’re going to be giving to the people of Utah,” McDonald said.

Utah economy can rebound

Jeff asked Miller: How does the Utah economy bounce back from this, and what would that look like?

“Although it seems like a lifetime ago, it was only last month that Utah had the hottest job market in the nation. The fastest growing economy in the nation. Why did we have those things? It was because of our fundamentals,” he said.

“Those fundamentals have not changed. Yes, we’ve been hit,” he said. “It’s very different than it was in 2008. Because in 2008, we had a fundamental flaw in the structure of our financial system. Hundreds of billions of dollar held in worthless debt by the very financial institutions that we relied upon to keep the oil in the economy moving

The fundamentals are there

“On the other end of the spectrum, that very debt was held, in large part, in homes that people lived in. I mention this because we are in a very different situation now. And although it is serious, and although people are hurting, and people are out of work, the fundamentals of our economy have not changed,” Miller said.

“Once we get this virus under control, once we flatten the curve, which we’ve all talked about doing, and we’re all working on doing together, we’ll go back to those fundamentals,” he said.

“It’s those fundamentals of our economy: a good workforce, a highly skilled workforce, low taxes, low regulatory barriers. And the fact that Utah is the crossroads of the West and becoming the crossroads of the world. All of those things will allow us to come back from this economic downturn,” Miller said.

Join KSL either on the radio or on the podcast weekdays to hear your Coronavirus questions answered by the experts. Each day, members of the Utah COVID-19 task force and experts in the health field will be available to speak to your comments and concerns. Leave a voicemail at 801-237-2482 to ask us your virus questions during the pandemic. 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah:

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States