Coloradans filing more new unemployment claims |

Coloradans filing more new unemployment claims

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” State labor officials say Coloradans filed roughly 25,000 new unemployment claims in December, topping the previous record of about 21,000 set in October 2001.

Mike Cullen of the state labor department’s unemployment insurance program says the 6,400 claims reported in the week ending Dec. 20 also set a record. Cullen says another monthly record for new claims could be set in January.

The state’s unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in November, up from 4 percent a year earlier. University of Colorado economists predict the rate will be 6.4 percent in 2009.

Cullen estimates that jobless Coloradans are collecting benefits an average of roughly 15 weeks, compared with 12 to 13 weeks in typical years.

To keep up with the extra load, the office has hired an additional 20 people and will hire more. Several former employees have come out of retirement to help.

Only half of the estimated 5,000 people who call each day are able to get help.

“I would ask people to be patient with us,” Cullen said Friday. “We’re doing everything we can to get to them. Despite the load, our payments are going out in a timely manner, and we have enough money in the fund.”

Part of the problem is federal funding to staff the office assumes lower volume.

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