Utah employers are bringing employees back from COVID-19-related layoffs. At least that’s the conclusion that can be drawn from June unemployment numbers released by the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS). June’s rate — 5.1 percent — was down considerably from May’s 8.6 percent. The jobless rate is second-best in the U.S., behind Kentucky’s 4.3 percent. The national unemployment rate for June came in at 11.1 percent.

Still, there were 43,100 fewer Utahns working in June than in June 2019, a drop of 2.8 percent, according to the DWS report. The total number of Utahns holding jobs dropped to about 1,515,200. DWS reported that more than $1 billion has been paid in unemployment benefits in the state since the beginning of pandemic-related layoffs.

But the negative job growth rate (-2.8 percent) was still the best in the nation, tied with Idaho, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Utah is ranked No. 2 for private-sector job growth at -2.7 percent.

“June’s employment assessment continues building upon May’s improvement,” said Mark Knold, chief economist at DWS. “Businesses continue to bring back furloughed workers. Across the past two months, just under half of the COVID-idled workers have been returned to work. These gains, in turn, have cut the unemployment rate in half in two months.”

Utah’s private-sector employment contraction continued easing in June, with the year-over-year decline dropping from earlier months. Three of 11 private-sector major industry groups measured in the survey posted net job gains in June, including construction (9,700 jobs); trade, transportation and utilities (1,400 jobs); and financial activities (600 jobs). The remaining eight industry groups posted employment declines. These were most impactful in leisure and hospitality services (-32,400 jobs), professional and business services (-8,400 jobs) and manufacturing (-1,900 jobs).

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