PHOTOS: Documenting COVID-19 in the Pikes Peak region.

Business closures and layoffs triggered by the coronavirus pandemic sent the Colorado Springs area unemployment rate soaring from a 30-year low in February to a 5½-year high in March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.

The jobless rate jumped from 2.9% in February, which was tied with five months in early 2000 as the lowest since 1990, to 5.4% in March. That’s the highest since September 2014 and is up from 3.5% in March 2019. The number of unemployed nearly doubled to 19,247. The 8,700 people added to the unemployment rolls in March was more than eight times the previous record set in September 2001 amid the terrorist attacks.

Colorado first-time unemployment claims nearly 300,000 in 5 weeks

In the four weeks since the March numbers were collected, more than 28,000 area residents have filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits. If all end up qualifying for benefits, that would push the area’s unemployment to more than 13%, well above the record 9.5% reached in late 2010 and early 2011 during the aftermath of the Great Recession. The agency’s records for the area start in 1990.

“There have been so many claims, will we be at 15% or 18%? These numbers will definitely get a lot worse before they get better,” said Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum.

“We are now seeing the ripple effect as this spreads throughout the local economy. No industry is immune, except for maybe technology.

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Colorado's unemployment rate highest in five years with worst still ahead

“The longer this goes on, the more the impact will spread through the economy. The only good news is that the local economy was in good shape before all this happened.”

The area’s unemployment increases over the past two months and the 12 months ended in March ranked in the Top 10 among 180 cities, according to a study by the online personal finance site WalletHub. The Top 10 was dominated by tourism-heavy areas such as Seattle, Las Vegas and Miami but also included Denver and Aurora.

Colorado's first-time unemployment claims soar past 100,000

The jobless rate comes from a survey of households. Payroll numbers, which come from a separate survey of employers, didn’t reflect the job losses in March. Payrolls expanded 2.2% from a year earlier with strong growth in professional, scientific and technical services, health care, and retailing with small declines in hotels and restaurants, finance and information sectors.

Unemployment rates were up in nearly two-thirds of the nation’s metro areas during March, including all seven in Colorado. Jobless rates increased by at least 1.5 percentage points in all seven areas, with Boulder the lowest at 3.8% and Pueblo the highest at 6.5%. Colorado’s unemployment rate increased from a record low of 2.5% in February to a five-year high of 4.5%.

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234



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