Unemployment Filings Are Creeping Up For The First Time In Weeks

Rich Pedroncelli / AP
Visitors use the Unemployment Insurance Phone Bank in Sacramento, Calif., in 2014.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said it has paid out $2.2 billion in unemployment benefits since March 29. That includes regular unemployment benefits and federal aid under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act .

To compare, the department paid out $2.3 billion from 2015 to 2019 combined.

After a seven-week streak of declines in the number of new claims, last week saw an uptick for both regular unemployment and federal benefits. The increase, week over week, was small: 6 percent for regular initial claims filings. Filings for benefits for self-employed and gig workers went up about 37 percent.

Spokesperson Cher Haavind said the increase in the federal benefits was expected.

“We believe mostly we could attribute that to people who had exhausted regular benefits and are now eligible for [other] benefits,” she said.

Over the past three months, Coloradans have filed 540,506 claims in total.

The department's work search requirements page and its requirements have been reinstated since Colorado’s economy has started to open. Those requirements were waived during the state’s “stay-at-home” order. Claimants who know they are returning to their current employer at a later date are not required to look for work.

According to Haavind, the department has about 2,400 reports of refusals to return to work. The department processed about 1,500 of those and the denial rate hovers at 17 percent. The department said it denies unemployment benefits to people who cannot effectively prove their reasons to not return to work. Claimants must prove that they are a part of a vulnerable population or caring for someone who is in order for their claims to be approved if they are refusing to report for work.

“The reasons we are seeing recorded on the claimant side is general fear,” Haavind said.

CDLE began hosting on-site appointments Monday and the department is scheduling about 40 appointments a day. Appointment reservations with the department are already booked until July.

Haavind said the top reason for people coming in is to backdate their claim, so they are eligible for back benefits. Haavind said that can also be done online.