Colorado’s unemployment was a stagnant 10.5% in June, according to data released by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on Friday, indicating that the state’s jobs situation isn’t dramatically improving as the state continues to reopen after a coronavirus shutdown.
In fact, the June rate was three-tenths of a percentage point higher than it was in May at 10.2%.
In April, when the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis in Colorado reached their peak, the state’s unemployment rate was 12.2%.
Businesses began reopening in Colorado and the labor force grew by more than 100,000 jobs in June. Nearly 37% of the jobs lost between February and April have been recovered.
Colorado’s unemployment rate in June was still below the national rate of 11.1%.
Still, in the most recent week available, the state recorded 10,506 new unemployment claims during the week of July 11, the highest number since the week of June 27.
The state Labor Department has scrambled to address concerns of nearly a half million people who’ve lost their jobs during the pandemic. Another 130,000 workers have claimed federal benefits of $600 a week since they do not qualify for regular state unemployment benefits.
The state’s unemployment call center, however, was unable to handle the volume of calls and, at one point, only 6% of calls were answered.
Rolling out the new virtual agent technology developed by Google on Tuesday evening helped the Department of Labor address unemployment questions. Last week, state officials said that its unemployment call center was getting 12,000 calls a day but only responding to one third of them.
In the couple of days virtual agents launched, the technology handled roughly 360,000 questions from 58,000 unique users, said Cher Haavind, deputy director of the Department of Labor. Virtual agents can guide users on popular questions, such as how to reopen a file, manage an existing claim, report weekly earnings or get help with work-search requirements.
The virtual agents, Haavind said, are “performing as well if not better than expected in meeting inquiries coming into that call center and helping us deal with the volume of calls coming in.”
About 88% of the questions are being answered, she added.
If the virtual agent is unable to provide the answer, the system schedules a call with a live agent — and there were 12,000 of those scheduled through the first week of August.
The virtual agents are being used online and on phone calls.
This story was updated at 4 p.m. on July 17 with details about the launch of virtual agents to tackle calls to the state’s unemployment call center and website.
Colorado unemployment resources
- File a claim
- Don’t want to wait on hold? First-time claimants fill out this call back form
- Schedule an in-person appointment
- Never got or lost your PIN? Fill out this form
- Fix a date or backdate an existing claim: Fill out this form
- Request a payment: myui.coworkforce.com/Login/Index
- Change payment method: Start here
- Reopen a claim: Start here
- Ask a question at Dept. of Labor virtual town hall: colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/covid-19/town-halls
- Get help by phone for regular unemployment (expect a long wait): 303-318-9000 or 1-800-388-5515; Spanish: 303-318-9333 or 1-866-422-0402; Deaf or hard of hearing: 303-318-9016 or 800-894-7730
- For Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: File here or call 303-536-5615
- Request a payment every other week: 303-813-2800, 888-550-2800 or at myui.coworkforce.com/Welcome
- Rejected? Appeal online or call 303-318-9299 (FAQs on appeals)
- Didn’t get paid? File a wage complaint (More info here)
- Suspect fraud: Find credit agency contacts and other tips
- Search for a job: connectingcolorado.com, OnwardCO.org
- Frequently updated: coloradoui.gov