Shared from the 8/21/2020 The Denver Post eEdition


Colo. sees most filings since June

U.S. jobless claims exceed 1 million again

WASHINGTON» The number of laid-off workers seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose to 1.1 million last week after two weeks of declines, evidence that many employers are still slashing jobs as the coronavirus bedevils the U.S. economy.

The latest figures suggest that more than five months after the viral outbreak erupted the economy is still weak, despite recent gains as some businesses reopen and some sectors like housing and manufacturing have rebounded. Jobless claims had fallen last week below 1 million for the first time since March, to 971,000. A rising number of people who have lost jobs say they consider their loss to be permanent.

In Colorado, where Gov. Jared Polis has shown a willingness to reopen and close or limit business operations again based on the amount of virus circulating, new filings continued to climb last week after steady declines through much of May and June. An additional 18,751 people applied for benefits, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced Thursday.

The total marks the third straight week the number of new claims has climbed and is the highest total since more than 20,000 people filed during the week ending June 20, according to state data. In total, more than 713,000 unemployment claims have been filed in the state since COVID-19 took hold in mid-March.

In an analysis released Thursday morning, WalletHub ranked Colorado 37th among all states and Washington, D.C., when it comes to the speed at which its unemployment claims numbers are recovering since the outset of the pandemic.

New claims filed in the state last week are up more than 182% compared with the first week of the year, according to WalletHub.

For the fourth week in a row, claims for federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assitance, or PUA, outpaced applications for regular state benefits in Colorado. PUA claims totaled 11,809 last week, while state claims were 6,942, according to the labor department. PUA filings, which are harder for the state to verify, have been beset by fraud, state officials say.

More than 288,000 Coloradans filed continuing claims for benefits for the week ending Aug. 8, slightly higher than the 280,800 who did so the week ending Aug. 1, the labor department says. The continuing need for support is a sign that many of the state’s job losses during the pandemic are long-term if not permanent.

The total number of people receiving unemployment aid nationwide declined last week from 15.5 million to 14.8 million, the government said Thursday. Those recipients are now receiving far less aid because a $600-a-week federal benefit has expired, which means the unemployed must now get by solely on much smaller aid from their states. The loss of the federal benefit has deepened the struggles for many, including a higher risk of eviction from their homes.

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to provide $300 a week in federal unemployment aid, with money drawn from a disaster relief fund.

Twenty-five states have said they will apply for the federal money, though they would need to revamp their computer systems to do so.

Other states are still considering whether to take that step; two have said they won’t.

Some states may be hesitating to overhaul their unemployment systems because they expect Congress to eventually pass a new rescue package with an enhanced jobless benefit that might not require any changes.

In states that decide to pay out the $300, the government estimates it would take three weeks, on average, for the states to send the money to the unemployed. And initially only enough money is being allotted to cover three weeks of payments. Even with subsequent grants, analysts estimate that there would be enough money to last only five or six weeks.

Colorado received approval for that funding on Wednesday, one of the first states to tap into the program.

The money is set to cover the weeks from July 26 through Aug. 15 with more federal funding possible after that. The state labor department says it expects to start distributing that money to people who qualify for the program in the middle of September.

In a statement sent to The Denver Post on Wednesday, Colorado’s Democratic U.S. senator, Michael Bennet, called the program, “woefully insufficient” and pushed for Congress to work on another bipartisan COVID-19 relief package.

The continuing stream of layoffs comes against the backdrop of a modest recovery from a deep recession and a virus that is still paralyzing much of the economy.

Home construction and sales have bounced back.

So have auto purchases.

But spending on travel, entertainment and many other services remains weak.

Small businesses are struggling. And unemployment, at 10.2%, remains elevated.

Denver Post reporter Joe Rubino contributed to this report.

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