Coronavirus: Colorado unemployment rate soars to 11.3% in April

Colorado’s unemployment rate shot up to 11.3% in April and employers in the state shed an estimated 323,500 jobs last month due to the pandemic and related closures, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Friday.

The number of unemployed workers in the state rose by 183,800 last month to 347,800, pushing the unemployment rate up from a revised 5.2% in March. It was a historically low 2.5% in February, with around 80,000 unemployed workers.

Colorado’s unemployment rate has hit the highest level in a series that goes back to 1976 and surpassed the high of 8.9% reached during the fall of 2010 in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

As bad as that increase is, Colorado, remains below the 14.7% U.S. unemployment rate, an all-time high in records going back to 1948. It also remains on the low end among states. Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in April at 28.2%, followed by Michigan at 22.7% and Hawaii at 22.3%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although more than 476,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits in Colorado since mid-March, they represent about 13.3% of the number of employed in February, which was the fourth-lowest share of any state. In states like Georgia and Kentucky, about four in 10 of the workers employed in February have sought assistance.

There could also be some confusion among furloughed workers about their employment status, reducing the number of unemployed. Some people on furlough may still view themselves as employed, even though technically they aren’t putting in any hours and should be counted as unemployed.

The household survey estimates 67,400 workers last month took themselves completely out of the labor market, pushing the state’s labor force down to 3,069,200. The number of people reporting themselves as employed, which also captures the self-employed, decreased by 251,200 to 2,721,300.

The number of nonfarm payroll jobs in Colorado declined by 323,500 from March to April, leaving the state with 2,473,400 jobs, according to a separate survey of business establishments. Private-sector employers cut 311,400 jobs, while the public sector lost 12,100 jobs.

March payroll losses were also revised higher, from 3,900 in the initial report to 16,500 in Friday’s report.

Leisure and hospitality suffered the largest number of job losses between March and April on a seasonally-adjusted basis at 148,100, not unexpected given the closure of so many hotels and restaurants.

Educational and health services were down 43,800 jobs, which reflects the closure of medical offices and schools. Trade, transportation and utilities were down 41,800, capturing the closure of retail stores and reductions in airlines and shuttle services. Professional and business services, which are amenable to remote working, were down 28,500. Other services, a category that includes hairstylists at tattoo parlors, was down 19,800 jobs. Construction employment fell by 12,700.

Only the information sector was able to avoid significant job losses last month, staying flat.

Pitkin County had the highest unemployment rate in the state at 23.1%, followed by Gilpin County at 23%. San Miguel, Summit and Eagle counties were all above 20% unemployment. Several counties on the Eastern Plains remained below 5%.

Grand Junction registered the highest unemployment rate among metro areas at 12.6%, followed by Colorado Springs at 12.3%. Metro Denver’s unemployment rate came in at 12.1% Boulder and Greeley had the lowest metro unemployment rates at 9.7% and 9.8%.

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