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Ending unemployment benefit early to fill jobs didn’t work, says state rep

FILE: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s governor ended the federal pandemic unemployment benefit of $300 a week in June to move laid-off Utah workers into open jobs, but that didn’t pan out, says a state lawmaker.

Job creation in the country fell flat in August. About 235,000 jobs were filled but expectations were for 720,000 new hires. 

But the US jobless rate fell from 5.4% to 5.2%. And Utah is the envy of all states with an unemployment rate of 2.6% in August, second only to Nebraska at 2.5%.

Banker and lawmaker weighs in on end of unemployment benefit

Utah state Rep. Robert Spendlove, who is the Economic and Public Policy officer at Zions Bank, joined Inside Sources to break down what’s going on with the economy nationally and statewide.

Spendlove said 235,000 jobs created in a normal month would be excellent, but the US is still 5 million jobs down from its pre-pandemic peak.

He said a few weeks ago he started to see early indicators of an economic slump, such as in-person dining and airline reservations dropping. The national jobs report Friday confirmed those suspicions.

‘Back to normal’

Congress’ historic expansion of the expanded unemployment benefit expired nationwide last weekend.

Laid-off Utahns lost their weekly $300 federal pandemic-unemployment benefit on June 26. 

“This is the natural next step in getting the state and people’s lives back to normal,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in May while announcing the end to the $300 unemployment benefit.

“There was a theory that as those enhanced unemployment benefits ended, that it would pull more people back into the labor force. What’s interesting is at least up till this point, we haven’t seen clear signs of that. So the states that didn’t end the unemployment insurance early and the states that did are seeing similar employment patterns,” Spendlove said.

Child care during the pandemic

Spendlove said data showed women re-entering the work force in spring but that trend reversed itself in August.

“We saw a very low number. Only about 20% of the people coming into the labor force were women. And so we continue to see that struggle, and I think that’s directly tied to childcare,” he said.


Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

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