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More than 31,000 unemployment claims were filed last week in Colorado, bringing the number of people who have sought relief from the state since the coronavirus crisis began its economic toll about two months ago to roughly 451,000.

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The new filings include 22,483 regular claims submitted by people who are normally eligible for unemployment insurance and 9,125 claims from gig and self-employed workers who can now collect money under the coronavirus aid package passed by Congress.

The silver lining: For four straight weeks there have been gradual declines in regular unemployment claims filed in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

That comes as many businesses reopen with COVID-19 restrictions being eased across the state.

However, claims and unemployment insurance payouts continue to outpace Great Recession levels, and restaurants remain closed to in-person dining and the tourism sector has all but ground to a halt.

During the height of the Great Recession, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, $19 million in benefits were paid out on an average weekly basis. Last week, $96 million was paid out by the state.

Meanwhile, the state’s previous record monthly payout was $102.8 million in May 2009. By comparison, roughly $315 million was paid out in April alone.

Nationally, nearly 3 million applied for unemployment benefits last week as the viral outbreak led more companies to slash jobs even though most states have begun to let some businesses reopen under certain restrictions.

Roughly 36 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the two months since the coronavirus first forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said Thursday.

All told, the figures point to a job market that remains gripped by its worst crisis in decades and an economy that is sinking into a severe downturn. The results show that the tentative reopening of some businesses in many states has done little to reverse the flow of mass layoffs. Last week’s pace of new applications for aid is four times the record high that prevailed before the coronavirus struck hard in March.

The latest jobless claims follow a devastating jobs report last week. The government said the unemployment rate soared to 14.7% in April, the highest rate since the Great Depression, and employers shed a stunning 20.5 million jobs. A decade’s worth of job growth was wiped out in a single month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — jesse@coloradosun.com Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The...