Colorado’s unemployment fund pays out $92M in two-week period entering April |

Colorado’s unemployment fund pays out $92M in two-week period entering April

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s unemployment rate rose sharply to 4.5% in March, and a much bigger spike is expected as the state economy slows even more amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials said in a report Friday.

The update from the state Department of Labor and Employment said unemployment increased from a historic low of 2.5% in February and surpassed the U.S. unemployment rate for the first time since 2005, The Denver Post reported. The U.S. unemployment rate went from 3.5% to 4.4%.

The state report captured only the earliest days of the economic slowdown. The brunt of the job losses will be reflected in the April unemployment report, which comes out in a month.

Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency on March 10 and soon ordered the closure of ski resorts, restaurants, bars and salons. A statewide stay-at-home order that closed all other nonessential businesses was issued March 26.

In the four weeks through April 11, the state received 231,610 initial claims for unemployment benefits. Adding the new claims to those filed by people who were unemployed in the middle of March would push the state’s unemployment rate closer to 12% — not counting self-employed workers and others who haven’t yet applied for benefits, the newspaper reported.

Among the hardest hit economic sectors were educational and health services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing.

Colorado paid $92 million in unemployment benefits during the two-week period ending April 11, said Ryan Gedney, the department’s senior economist. By comparison, the state paid an average of $19 million each week during the height of the Great Recession a decade ago

Gedney said Colorado’s $1.1 billion unemployment trust fund will withstand the crisis. He also noted the state can borrow from the federal government or issue bonds — as it did during the Great Recession — should the fund approach insolvency.

At least 391 people in Colorado have died of the coronavirus, which for most people causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Polis said Friday he has activated the National Guard to test residents at three of the largest nursing homes in the state in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus among the elderly. He is requiring all senior care facilities to submit a detailed isolation plan by May 1 to deal with patients and staff who contract the disease.

“With so many vulnerable individuals and also front-line caretakers that are in close contact, we really need even better planning, better protections to stop the spread of the virus in these facilities,” he said at a news conference.

Polis also said workers at critical businesses like grocery stores will be required to wear a mask. He added that as more people wear face coverings, more lives will be saved and the sooner the economy will rebound.