Eagle County’s unemployment rate hit a record of 20.5% in April, according to Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment data released Friday.
That’s higher than Colorado’s statewide rate of 11.3%, up from 6.1% in April, and higher than the national rate of 14.7%. The national unemployment rate was 3.6% a year ago.
That’s Colorado’s highest unemployment rate since the CDLE started keeping comparable records in 1976. The previous high was 8.9 percent from September to December 2010, according to CDLE data.
Colorado lost 323,500 jobs from March to April. Of those, 311,400 were private sector jobs.
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Particularly hard hit were service industry jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry, with more than three times as many job losses as education and health services, the next highest category.
Coloradans are still working at 2,473,400 jobs, the CDLE said.
Only Pitkin County (23.1%) and neighboring Summit County (21.1%) had higher unemployment rates than Eagle County among counties in Northwest Colorado.
Colorado was in a three-way tie with Montana and New Mexico for the 15th lowest unemployment rate in the nation for April, according to labor department data.
“We went from record-low to record-high unemployment in a matter of months, which is quite frankly unbelievable,” Cher Haavind, the deputy executive director of the state labor department, said Friday during a call with reporters.
More than 476,000 people have filed initial unemployment claims in Colorado since the coronavirus crisis hit the state in early March and jobs were slashed in industries ranging from tourism to retail and food service to hospitality.
Unemployment fund nearly depleted
That grim news follows a revelation that Colorado’s unemployment fund is nearly depleted by the historically high number of new claims, more than 500,000 since mid-March. The $800 million in the fund is expected to last through July.
To replenish the fund, employers can expect to pay between 54% and 85% higher premiums, the state’s labor department said.
In the meantime, unemployment claims will be paid and states can backfill their unemployment trust funds with 0% federal loans. Those loans, however, will have to be repaid by employers, the CDLE said.