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State confirms 61,583 Coloradans filed initial unemployment applications last week

Posted at 8:48 AM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 20:29:47-04

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment confirmed Thursday morning that 61,583 initial unemployment claims were filed the week of March 22-28.

On March 27, the department said it estimated that roughly 61,000 unemployment applications have been filed. The department confirmed the exact number Thursday.

The week of March 22-28 brought forward more than three times the number of initial unemployment claims than the week of March 15-21, which was 19,745.

READ MORE: Colorado makes changes to unemployment filing process to ease volume on state website

To put this into perspective, the Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) said the week with the highest initial claims during the Great Recession saw 7,749 claims. This occurred the week ending on Jan. 9, 2010. The numbers released Thursday morning are about eight times greater than the peak period during the Recession, CDLE explained.

CDLE Deputy Executive Director Cher Haavind said on Thursday, March 26 alone, about 16,000 people filed applications over the course of 24 hours.

Ryan Gedney, a senior economist for CDLE, said the full impact of COVID-19 on the economy may not be known until the job numbers for March or April are available. The data for March will be released on April 17 at 8 a.m.

The U.S. Department of Labor also announced the number of unemployment claims nationwide Thursday. The claims have doubled since last week, to a current total of 6.65 million.

At a 10 a.m. media briefing, CDLE officials put into further context just how drastically the COVID-19 outbreak has reshaped the state’s unemployment landscape in just a few weeks.

CDLE Deputy Executive Director Cher Haavind said the state continues to see between 10,000 and 15,000 applications filed each day on the unemployment insurance website. She said that Sunday through Wednesday this week, the state had received close to 40,000 applications.

She said the gating system implemented to try to keep certain people filing at certain times and other changes made on the back end of the site have helped it stabilize.

But the number of calls to the CDLE’s unemployment call center is “overwhelming,” she said. Haavind said that before COVID-19 hit, there were typically about 1,000 calls place to the center each day. But on Monday, she said, there were 225,000 attempted calls – some successful but others not.

She said the state had doubled the staffing at the call center in recent weeks but said staff and systems at the call center were overwhelmed.

Haavind said the state was still waiting for guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor before it changes its systems to start implementing some of the portions of the CARES Act.

There were a combined 81,000 initial claims over the past two weeks, compared to 102,000 total that were processed in all of 2019, CDLE senior economist Ryan Gedney said.

Gedney said he expected claims and the insured unemployment rate will continue to rise in coming weeks, and that figures could topple what the state saw during the peak of the Great Recession.

He said that the industry with the most claims seen so far was leisure and hospitality, which includes, arts, entertainment, hotels, restaurants and bars. Mining and construction claims also went up, Gedney said.

Haavind said a new unemployment site redesign would launch in coming days and that people who filed for unemployment March 16-18 should start seeing benefit payments in coming days.

Haavind said there were about 300 employers participating in workshare programs, up from the normal 10 or so. And she added that the CDLE would be sending an email to all 100,000 employers in the state’s premium database to promote workshare programs and help in answering their employees’ questions.

CDLE said that the full March numbers would come out April 17 but that the full picture of the unemployment changes due to COVID-19 likely won’t be seen until the May report is released.