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Vacant historic Bennett Avenue in Cripple Creek, Colo., on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Casinos will be reopening on Monday, June 15, with limited capacity. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

Colorado's unemployment rate fell in May as residents returned to work after the state's stay-at-home order expired, but remains quite high, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Friday.

Colorado unemployment rate surges to record high

The jobless rate fell to 10.2% in May from a revised 12.2% in April; the record April rate came as restaurants, bars, many retailers, medical offices, gyms, theaters, barbers and hair stylists and other businesses were shut down by the stay-at-home order. Many businesses reopened May 1, allowing nearly 70,000 people to return to work — or about 20% of those who lost their jobs since the pandemic hit the state. But more than 300,000 remained out of work; that's nearly four times as many as were jobless before the pandemic. The May state unemployment rate is up from 2.8% in May 2019.

Unemployment rates fell in 42 others states in May, paralleling a similar drop in the U.S. jobless rate from 14.7% in April to 13.3% in May. Ryan Gedney, senior economist for the state Department of Labor and Employment, called May's improvement "encouraging" but said further gains would depend on whether the national job market continued to recover this month. Those numbers will be released in early July.

Colorado Springs unemployment rate surges from 30-year low to 5-year high

The unemployment rate comes from a survey of households. More than 50,000 of the returning workers were in the hotel, restaurant and health care industries, according to a separate survey of employers, even though restaurants were restricted to takeout and couldn't serve customers in dining rooms until the end of the month. The unemployment rate comes from a survey of households. The government sector shed the most jobs — 12,000.

The jobless rate also fell in the Colorado Springs area during May, to 9.7% from a revised record of 12.6% in April, as more than 11,000 people returned to their jobs. More than 33,000 remained out of work, or about three times more than in February, before the pandemic hit the state. Similar to the rest of the state, most of the area's returning workers were in the hotel, restaurant and health case industries.

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

Among Colorado's metro areas, Boulder had the lowest unemployment rate at 8.2% and Denver had the highest at 10.4%. San Miguel County, which includes the Telluride Ski Area, had the highest jobless rate of any county at 22.1% and rural Cheyenne County, near the Kansas border, had the lowest at 2.1%. Other counties with unemployment rates of 20% or more included Gilpin County, which includes Central City and Black Hawk, and Pitkin County, which includes Aspen.

Gedney said Colorado's unemployment trust fund likely will run out of money by early September, but the state will borrow money from the federal government to continue making payments. That would normally trigger a surcharge to employers to pay back the loan, but any surcharge would be delayed until at least 2023 due to legislation awaiting Gov. Jared Polis' signature.

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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