More than 10,700 people filed new unemployment claims in Colorado last week, the highest total since July.
The wave of increased filings came as public health officials tightened restrictions on businesses in Denver and Adams counties amid spiking COVID-19 cases. It’s an indication the novel coronavirus dictates the course of the economy more than six months after its emergence in Colorado.
In total, 7,116 people filed for state-provided benefits during the week ending Oct. 31, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Another 3,625 Coloradans filed for federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance support, a program launched this spring to help gig workers and the self employed.
That 10,741 total is a more than 25% increase over the 8,585 people who sought support in the state during the week ending Oct. 24. That is the biggest single-week spike in new filings since early spring when weekly filings were routinely exciting the 40,000 mark.
An estimated 771,000 people have filled for benefits in Colorado since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, according to the labor department. Of those, more than 207,000 are collecting ongoing benefits with more than 48,000 people on extended federal benefits indicating they have already been receiving support for more than 26 weeks.
Hospitalizations for severe cases of COVID-19 are expected to surge past the previous record high set in April in Colorado in the next few days. The spike in cases and hospitalizations has raised serious concerns about hospital capacity and caused public health officials to clamp down on public and private gatherings in the metro area.
Last week, Denver and Adams County, home to more than 1 million people combined, moved into the second-highest level of restrictions on the state’s color-coded COVID-19 dial. That capped capacity inside most businesses at 25%, down from the 50% most were operating at for most of the summer and early fall.
State data tracking new unemployment claims by county has only been updated through the week ending Oct. 17 so it’s too early to say definitively how those restrictions may have impacted jobs in those places, but Denver and Adams county aren’t alone in facing tighter protocols.
Boulder and Broomfield counties will face tighter restrictions, including a 25% capacity limit for most businesses, starting Friday. Jefferson County will move to that stage on Monday, public health officials have announced.
On a nationwide level, new filings declined slightly last week to 751,000. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated a new coronavirus stimulus bill will be a priority when lawmakers return to Washington next week but as Colorado’s jobless numbers indicate the economy may hinge more heavily on how under control — or out of control — the virus is in the months ahead.
“With the recent resurgence in COVID cases, consumers have been reminded about reasons for caution on the question of going out in public. While they have supported more purchases of goods, including via online, purchases of services remain the biggest casualties of this decision making,” Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst for Bankrate, said in a statement Thursday. “They will likely only be fully restored after safe and effective vaccines are widely available.”
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