The unemployment rate in the Colorado Springs area fell in May, with 9,000 people returning to work as many businesses reopened with the easing of state restrictions aimed at slowing the COVID-19 virus.
The local jobless rate fell to 9.9% in May from a record 12.6% in April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday. But that’s triple the 3.3% rate of May 2019. Nearly 34,000 people still remained out of work, or more than triple the 10,499 who were unemployed in February before the state reported its first COVID case.
First-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits are declining in the Colorado Springs area and statewide, but are still more than triple the level before the pandemic triggered a state stay-at-home order. The 1,081 claims received in the week ended June 13 in the Springs area was down 32% from the previous week and the fewest since mid-March, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
“As the U.S. economy has begun to reopen, some jobs have returned, and unemployment levels have eased a bit,” said Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum, in an email sent Tuesday to the forum’s sponsors, which include The Gazette.
“The reality is we have a very long way to go to obtain anything near ‘normal’ levels of employment.”
The unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of households; a separate survey of businesses showed 6,000 of the 9,000 of returning workers were in the restaurant and hotel industries, with the rest coming from the construction, professional and business services and other services sectors. The professional and business services sector includes defense contractors and the other services sector includes call centers.
Jobless rates declined in May in all seven Colorado metro areas, with Boulder the lowest at 8.8% and Denver the highest at 10.6%. Colorado’s unemployment rate fell to 10.2% in May from a record 12.2% in April. The national jobless rate also declined, to 13.3% in May from 14.7% in April. The nation’s highest metro unemployment rate was 33.4% in Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, on the Hawaiian island of Maui and Logan, which include parts of Utah and Idaho, has the lowest at 4.8%.