First-time unemployment benefit claims fell last week, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Thursday.
The 8,486 claims for regular unemployment benefits filed in the week ending July 18 were down 19.2% from the previous week, resuming a three-month decline that began after claims peaked at more than 100,000 in early April. However, the number of claims filed by self-employed people, independent contractors and “gig” workers spiked 66.8% during the same period to 7,912, the highest weekly total since 10,385 of the claims were filed in the week ending June 20. That pushed the combined claims up 7.5% to 16,398.
Ryan Gedney, the department’s senior economist, said he didn’t have a good explanation for last week’s big increase in claims from self-employed and other similar workers, but the department is monitoring the data to see if the increase continues. He said the department revised weekly totals for that program for the past four weeks to exclude fraudulent claims.
The department has received more than 500,000 regular unemployment claims and nearly 145,000 claims for self-employed and other similar workers for 646,797 claims since mid-March.
The agency said it has paid out more than $3.7 billion in unemployment benefits since March 29, including regular unemployment benefits, payments to self-employed and similar workers and a temporary $600 weekly benefit that expires Saturday. About 470,000 unemployment state residents receive the extra $600 a week.
The department forecasts its unemployment insurance fund will be exhausted by mid- to late August, forcing it to borrow money interest-free from the federal government to continue making benefit payments. The state borrowed from the federal government to continue benefit payments in the late 1980s and during the Great Recession. Recent state legislation delays employer surcharges to repay any borrowing for two years.
In the Colorado Springs area, initial claims for regular unemployment benefits in the week ending July 4 rose 4.5% from the previous week to 1,051, while claims from self-employed and similar workers for the week ending July 11 fell 27.5% to 563, the fewest since the program started April 20. The department has received 50,939 regular unemployment claims and 16,717 claims for self-employed and other such workers in the Colorado Springs area since the COVID-19 pandemic triggered state orders closing many businesses.