Unemployment payments during the pandemic shows record-level of benefits paid. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

Thousands of Coloradans have lost their jobs since businesses across the state cut their hours or shut down completely as part of officials’ attempts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

And we’ve been tracking two key numbers since March 14, when Gov. Jared Polis ordered the closure of the state’s ski areas, leaving scores out of work. Those are the number of new weekly claims for unemployment and the amount of money paid to unemployed workers from the state fund and also federal relief dollars.

Read more unemployment stories from The Colorado Sun

Colorado has seen record unemployment numbers since the executive order. On March 16, Polis shut down Colorado restaurants and bars to in-person dining for at least 30 days in an order that also shuttered theaters, casinos, gyms and large public venues.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.


The impact was immediate: 20,700 Coloradans filed claims in the three days after Polis’ orders began. On March 19, alone, there were 10,000 new filings, up nearly 50% from the day before, when outages plagued the online filing system, said Cher Haavind, deputy executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Unemployment.

After a 25% decline in new weekly claims for the week ended April 5, the following week shot back up to 104,217 initial claims. In the four weeks ending April 18, 279,199 initial claims of unemployment were filed in Colorado. That represents nearly 10% of Coloradans who were in employed in February, according to the labor department.

Colorado began accepting applications from self-employed, gig workers and workers not eligible for regular unemployment on April 20 and in the first three days more than 30,000 workers made claims. By the end of the first week, 40,906 self-employed workers had filed for benefits, as of April 25.

More: Only 6% of calls to Colorado’s unemployment line are getting answered. But changes are on the horizon.

The $2 trillion federal stimulus package expands unemployment benefits to furloughed workers. It offers an additional $600 a week for four months to all workers furloughed during the coronavirus shutdowns. This is through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which ends in Colorado on July 25.

Typically, Colorado’s unemployment compensation is 55% of a worker’s salary and lasts for 26 weeks. The federal plan is on top of regular unemployment pay for laid-off Coloradans. Independent contractors and gig workers, like Uber drivers, also qualify for the $600 though not regular state unemployment since they don’t pay into the system. Gig workers are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

As of July 22, here are the existing federal unemployment benefits that are available:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) — While this benefit ends July 25 in Colorado, workers who were late to claim the benefit may still be qualified if they were unemployed between March 29 and July 25. PUC pay is retroactive. Also, claimants typically file for benefits every other Sunday. For those who file on Aug. 2, they’ll still get that last week of PUC.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) — For Coloradans who exhaust their regular 26 weeks of state benefits, PEUC provides an extra 13 weeks of regular unemployment pay. The state labor department is now contacting people whose regular benefits are ending to let them know an extension is available.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) — PUA offers a weekly unemployment payment to gig workers, contractors and the self employed who don’t normally qualify for state benefits. The amount is based on past income. This is a federal benefit and ends Dec. 31.

Last updated at 7:38 a.m. on July 23, 2020.

STORY: Unemployment claims skyrocket as thousands of Coloradans lose their jobs

Colorado’s unemployment claims since January

Colorado’s unemployment claims since 2000

The map below from The Associated Press highlights the number of hospitality workers and their average annual income by county along with the number of hospitality businesses. It is helpful in illustrating the potential impact of job loss to so many across the nation.

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Tamara writes about businesses, technology and the local economy for The Colorado Sun. She also writes the "What's Working" column, available as a free newsletter at coloradosun.com/getww. Contact her at cosun.com/heyww, or tamara@coloradosun.com or on LinkedIn at in/gadgetress/