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The exterior of Potager, a farm-to-table restaurant in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood, on Friday May 22, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado’s unemployment rate was 10.2% in May, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Friday, a slight improvement over the month before as businesses in the state began reopening after a weeks-long coronavirus shutdown.

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Colorado’s unemployment rate was 12.2% in April, its highest-ever level since the state began tracking unemployment levels in 1976. Initially the rate was thought to be 11.3% last month, but state officials have since revised it to be higher.

The prior record-high monthly unemployment rate was 8.9% in the fall of 2010, during the fallout of the Great Recession.

The national unemployment rate in May was 13.3%.

More than 550,000 people in Colorado have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began. That’s the equivalent of about one sixth of the state’s total pre-coronavirus workforce.

But there have been signs that the employment crisis is leveling off. Employers no longer appear to be hemorrhaging positions as they were a few weeks ago.

In recent weeks, the number of people applying for unemployment benefits in Colorado has slowed from a peak in April when the economic affects of the pandemic first took hold. About 8,400 people began working again in May, compared to April.

However the amount of money that the state has paid out in jobless benefits has remained relatively flat — and at record-high levels well above what was recorded during the Great Recession.

Last week the state paid out more than $135 million in benefits, the highest weekly amount since the coronavirus crisis began. About $2.5 billion has been distributed since late March.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

The Colorado Sun — jesse@coloradosun.com

Desk: 720-432-2229

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage.

A Colorado College graduate, Jesse worked at The Denver Post from June 2014 until July 2018, when he joined The Sun. He was also an intern at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown.

Jesse has won awards for long form feature writing, public service reporting, sustained coverage and deadline news reporting.


Email: jesse@coloradosun.com Twitter: @jesseapaul