Nearly 500,000 people in Colorado have sought unemployment

As viewed through a fisheye lens, a lone pedestrian walks along Sixth Street past shuttered shops closed to help in the effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus in May in Georgetown.

Weekly first-time claims for unemployment benefits in Colorado have fallen below 10,000 for the first time since mid-March, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Thursday.

The 9,882 claims for traditional jobless benefits filed in the week ended June 20 were down 3.8% from the previous week and the lowest weekly total since claims totaled 2,321 during the week ended March 14. Initial claims peaked at a record 104,217 in the week ended April 11 as many businesses were shut down under state orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The department also received 10,385 claims from self-employed people, independent contractors and “gig” workers during the week ended June 20, down 42.1% from the previous week, although the department suspects about 5,600 of the claims for the week ended June 13 were fraudulent and since changed its procedures to curb suspected fraud.

Colorado unemployment rate falls in May from record high

Cher Haavind, the department’s deputy executive director, said the suspected fraudulent claims resulted from a new system launched in mid-April that covered those who had not previously been eligible for unemployment benefits, and thus the system didn’t have many of the safeguards built into the regular unemployment insurance system. She said the fraud stems from identity information stolen in past online security breaches. Those who have received a debit card for benefits they didn’t request or want to report suspected fraud can file a report at www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/fraud-prevention-employers.

During the past 14 weeks, the department has received 466,645 regular unemployment claims and 122,343 claims from self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers. The nearly 600,000 claims represent 18.5% of the state’s workforce, though a department economist estimated last week about 20% of those who were laid off or furloughed since the pandemic-related restrictions were imposed have returned to work. Ryan Gedney, the department’s senior economist, said the gradual decline in claims is expected to continue with restrictions eased.

Colorado unemployment claims fall to 3-month low, but 'gig' claims spike

In the Colorado Springs area, 1,590 people filed initial unemployment claims during the week ended June 6, up 18.9% from the previous week and the first weekly increase in nine weeks.

Another 2,365 self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers in the area filed for benefits in the week ended June 13, up 49% from the previous week. The number of claims of all types filed in the area since mid-March now totals nearly 60,000, or 16.8% if the area’s labor force.

The department said it has paid out about $2.7 billion in unemployment benefits since March 29, reducing the balance in the state’s unemployment trust fund to less than $500 million. Much of that total is paid with federal funds, but the department expects the fund to run out of money and have to borrow from the federal government by late August or early September, Gedney said. No interruption in benefits is expected if the fund becomes insolvent, he said.

First-time Colorado unemployment claims up for first time in eight weeks

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