COVID-19 Study: Unemployment in Colorado Up Most in USA Last Week

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Prior to the fiscal distress caused by stay-at-home orders necessitated by COVID-19, the economy in Colorado was booming. As a result, the state had a long way to fall — and it has.

A new study finds that Colorado's unemployment rise last week was the highest in the nation, compared to a year ago at this time. And new figures from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment listing unemployment claims in excess of 100,000 for the latest filing period show that the situation is continuing to worsen.

"States With the Biggest Increases in Unemployment Due to COVID-19," just released by Wallethub, takes a number of different approaches to measuring the upswing in people out of work across the country. The first compares unemployment insurance claims for the week of April 6, 2020, to the week of April 8, 2019. The second juxtaposes claims from the week of April 6, 2020, with ones submitted the first week of January 2020. And the third looks at the increase in claims the week of March 16, 2020, which is identified as the beginning of the COVID-19 economic crisis in the United States, and the week of April 6, 2020.

The first metric is the most brutal for Colorado. Claims from the week of April 8, 2019, numbered 2,037, while those for the week of April 6, 2020, came to 105,073 — a 5,058 percent increase, the nation's largest. The increase measured during the first weeks of January 2020 and April 2020 was 4,222.21 percent, or fourth-worst in the U.S. by that standard. And the comparison of filings from a week in March 2020 and the same week in April 2020 dates came in at 3,341.62 percent, good for twentieth place.

The state labor department uses different dates than does Wallethub, with its latest release spotlighting unemployment submissions between April 5 and April 11. During that span, initial claims numbered 104,217. That's more than 55,000 above the total for the previous week, which ended on April 4.

Here are the five Colorado industries with the highest number of claims:
Accommodation and Food Services: 21,124
Healthcare and Social Service: 9,717
Retail Trade: 7,400
Other Services (including nail salons and barbers): 5,914
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation: 4,080
Since March 16, online payment requests in Colorado have exceeded 150,000, with $62 million in benefits paid during the week ending April 11 — more than double the $29.8 million in benefits for the week ending April 4. And both sums dwarf the average weekly benefits paid during all of 2020 prior to March 16: $8.7 million.

Colorado will soon break the record for the most unemployment benefits paid out during a single month: $102.8 million in May 2009, at the height of what became known as the Great Recession.

Which looks absolutely modest compared to what's happening now.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts