Unemployment Claims Reach A Pandemic Low As Colorado Warns Of A Winter Bump

jesus bejarano, r m
David Zalubowski/AP
Construction worker Jesus Bejarano wears a face mask bearing the design of the flag of Colorado as he heads back to a nearby site while other workers report to their jobs for the first time in nearly two months with the expiration of the city’s stay-at-home order to check the spread of the new coronavirus Saturday, May 9, 2020, in Denver.

Updated 2:10 p.m.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment processed 4,840 initial claims for unemployment in the week that ended on Sept. 26. It’s the first time since March that claims fell below the 5,000 mark.

For context, 4,800 was the average weekly number of initial claims during The Great Recession. 

“While claims activity has steadily declined over the past three months, I anticipate we will experience upticks in the fourth quarter,” senior economist Ryan Gedney warned. 

It’s typical for some seasonal changes to happen. As an example, construction claims tend to rise in the fall and winter.

However, Gedney also expects a rise because the incoming colder weather may cause a surge in new layoffs within the restaurant sector because patrons can’t sit outside as much to reduce capacity indoors. 

Since March, restaurants have accounted for about 15 percent of all industry-level regular initial claims filed in Colorado.

Update on $300 Federal Unemployment Benefit 

The state paid out a total of $338 million in the $300 federal unemployment benefit program through Sept. 30. For that extra benefit, the state got about $553 million from the government.

The $300 benefit provides up to six weeks of retroactive pay. People who were already eligible for unemployment benefits for weeks July 26 through Sept. 5 and who were eligible for at least $100/week in unemployment can get this benefit. People who are regular unemployment claimants must certify by Oct. 10. Claimants can certify by phone or online.

The $300 benefit came after the $600 benefit expired in late July. The state estimates that anywhere from 300,000 to 350,000 people may be eligible.

Cher Haavind, the state’s spokeswoman, said the state has paid out about 60 percent of the claimants they consider to be eligible.

On Customer Service Callbacks 

There have been 12 million queries within the system since the state launched the application. Haavind said the state has completed 60,000 callbacks. 

“We continue to open up slots on a recurring basis,” she said. “That’s dependent on staffing capacity.”

The state opened up about 3,000 slots for the weeks between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4. Haavind mentioned that their team is calling individuals who are closer to the back of the line and requesting if they want an earlier date. Of the calls happening now, there’s about a 31 percent no-show rate. 

Jeff Fitzgerald, director of the Division of Unemployment Services, said there is immediate availability for Spanish-speaking individuals.