A month of stricter restrictions on restaurants, gyms and other businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on Colorado’s economy as new unemployment records continued to rise at an alarming rate last week.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported on Thursday that 52,386 people filed for initial unemployment claims during the week ending December 19.
This represents an increase of 29.4% over the week ended on December 12. It is the worst week for new claims since April, and almost five times the weekly claims volume seen through October.
Of those who applied last week, 24,397 enrolled in the state’s traditional benefits program. The rest, 27,989 workers, entered the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, or PUA, financed by the federal government.
State labor officials rushed to defend the program in April, after it was authorized by the $ 2 trillion CARES pandemic stimulus package. But funding for the PUA and other federal programs, like the 13-week extension of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, ends on Saturday, leaving 280,000 people without benefits.
The new COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress this month – but still awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature on Thursday morning – will extend the PUA and federal extended benefit programs until 2021. Still, it will take at least four weeks before funding is reactivated for tens of thousands of coloradanos, counting on that money to pay for food, housing and other needs.
More than 253,000 people filed for continuous unemployment applications in Colorado last week. The state’s unemployment rate in November was 6.4%.
The recent rise in unemployment records follows closely when Denver and many other high-population counties in the state were moved to the Red Level of restrictions on the state’s coronavirus threat indicator in mid-November. Red Level health measures prohibit dining in restaurants and limit the capacity of many other businesses to 25%, 10% in the case of gyms and fitness centers.
Since these restrictions took effect, unemployment records for workers in the food service and accommodation sectors have skyrocketed in Colorado. In the last week of October, 864 workers from these industries entered the unemployment process. During the week ended December 5, more than 4,300 restaurant and hotel employees sought unemployment benefits.
Thirty-four counties in Colorado are now under Red Level restrictions, but the Five Star State Certification Program launched by Colorado recently is providing companies with ways to increase their capacity and potentially bring back licensed and dismissed team members in the process. .
Under Five Star rules, counties can receive state approval to establish a program that allows companies to increase capacity beyond regular public health restrictions. To qualify for greater capabilities, companies must meet more stringent security standards.
In Douglas County, 33 companies, including 18 restaurants and 14 gyms and fitness centers, were allowed to increase their internal guest capacity to 25% on Wednesday after meeting Five Start County guidelines. Summit and Larimer counties are working to establish their own Five Star rules now and Arapahoe County has been approved to follow suit.