DENVER – Colorado’s unemployment rate rose to 4.5% in March as the COVID-19 outbreak forced thousands of people out of their jobs.
That rate is the highest seen in Colorado since August 2015, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Friday. The state’s unemployment rate in February was 2.5%.
The CDLE said that the national unemployment rate rose to 4.4% in March – meaning that Colorado’s rate is now higher than the national rate. The last time that was the case was in June 2005.
Last March, the Colorado unemployment rate was 3% and the national rate was 3.8%.
The CDLE estimated the March rates based on the pay period for the week of March 12. The state said that the Friday data “provides an initial estimate of Colorado’s employment situation during the first stages of the COVID-19 outbreak within the state.”
Job losses increased in Colorado after that week, when Gov. Jared Polis ordered ski areas, restaurants and bars closed to limit spread of the virus.
Last week, more than 104,000 Coloradans filed for unemployment. Over the past four weeks, more than 230,000 initial unemployment claims were filed – more than were filed in any year since 2010, the state has said.
Coloradans who are eligible for extended federal unemployment benefits under the CARES Act can start applying for those benefits starting Monday, the CDLE also announced Friday.
The long-awaited system will allow self-employed workers, independent contractors and so-called “gig workers” to apply for unemployment benefits. It will also extend an additional 13 weeks of federal benefits to workers who exhaust their 26 weeks or regular benefits and $600 a week to anyone receiving benefits of any kinds.