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Eric Janssen, general manager at Jose Muldoon’s, cleans the windows of the front entrance of the restaurant in Colorado Springs in Tuesday, March. Colorado restaurants have been ordered to eliminate in-house dining to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Colorado Springs area eateries are offering curbside food pickup and other forms of delivery. Following the closures of dining areas in restaurants and bars and the temporary closures of other businesses unemployment claims surged. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

First-time unemployment insurance claims filed in Colorado continued a gradual decline for a fifth consecutive week in the seven days ended May 16, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday.

The 17,285 claims for traditional unemployment benefits reflected a 20.7% drop from the previous week’s total and is the lowest weekly total since restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus shut down many businesses in mid-March. However, the number of claims still remained more than double any week during the Great Recession and about nine times higher than last year’s weekly average.

First-time unemployment claims decline for fourth week in Colorado

The decline in claims also meant the department paid out less in unemployment benefits, which fell in the week ended May 16 for the first time since the pandemic hit.

Unemployment payments in that week fell 7.5% from the previous week to $88.8 million, which is still the second-highest weekly total for benefit payments.

The department also received 7,633 claims from self-employed persons, independent contractors and “gig” workers in the week ended May 16, down 16.4% from the previous week.

The department has received 476,613 claims for traditional and self-employed, contractors and gig workers during the past nine weeks, or 15.2% of the labor force; when added to the 142,578 unemployed in early March, that would boost the unemployment rate to nearly 20% if all claims are eligible.

Colorado first-time unemployment claims fall for third consecutive week

The number of traditional claims filed in the Colorado Springs area fell 27.7% from the previous week to 2,601 in the week ended May 9, while the number of claims from self-employed persons, independent contractors and gig workers was down 21.6% to 1,061.

Area residents have filed nearly 45,000 claims during the past seven weeks, or 12.5% of the area’s labor force.

More than 40% of the statewide claims received in the week ended May 2, the most recent data available, came from workers in the hotel, restaurant, retail and health care industries. The biggest share of claims is coming from workers under 35 years old and females.

Nearly 41,000 self-employed, contractors file for unemployment in Colorado

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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