State’s first unemployment report of 2021 shows dramatic increases

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COLORADO SPRINGS — More than 24,000 jobs were lost in December of 2020 as restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 increased across much of the Front Range, leading to an increased unemployment rate to 8.2 %.

Front Range communities also saw the most drastic increases of unemployment claims, according to state officials.

Pueblo County led the way, proportionately, with an 11.3 % unemployment rate and lost 800 jobs from November to December. The Colorado Springs area shed 2,500 jobs in that time.

However, more than half (191,500 jobs) of the jobs lost since the beginning of the pandemic (342,300).

Jobs in retail saw some of the strongest growth (+5,100) along with with trade, transportation and utilities (+10,200). Because of restrictions on restaurants, the hospitality industry hemorrhaged 36,100 jobs in the month, part of 91,500 jobs lost in the hospitality industry since December 2019.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) attributes much of the losses to counties moving to Level Red on the state’s COVID-19 restriction dial at the end of November, but its economists don’t expect significant job gains in hospitality to occur until warmer temperatures come to the state.

“I expect the first quarter we may see some losses or level off of job gains, but the second quarter I think is when we really start to see things turn around,” said CDLE Senior Economist Ryan Gedney.

CDLE also providing an update on its efforts to prevent fraudulent unemployment claims. It’s beginning to implement the system “id.me” and says that many people will be asked to verify their identity before getting their benefits. The department notes thousands of fewer claims after increased fraud protections were put in place.

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