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Colorado reopening some federal unemployment claims next week

The state's labor department also provided that latest unemployment data for December during its monthly update.

COLORADO, USA — The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) said during its monthly unemployment update that claimants who were still eligible to receive federal unemployment will be contacted to reopen their claims next week. 

The federal CARES Act expired on Dec. 26, stopping payment on all federal unemployment benefits programs. 

That included the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for self-employed and gig workers, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program that extends regular unemployment (UI) benefits up to 13 additional weeks, and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

FPUC provided an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits for anyone eligible for UI benefits until the CARES Act expired. The resumed FPUC program will provide $300 a week.

CDLE said it began reprograming its systems once the second pandemic relief bill was signed into law on Dec. 27, and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance on Jan. 9 on resuming distribution of federal unemployment benefits.

By the end of next week, CDLE said it will contact all claimants who were still eligible to receive PUA and PEUC when the CARES Act expired about reopening their existing claims.

Claimants eligible for any benefits between Dec. 27 and Jan. 13 will retroactively receive FPUC benefits for those weeks in their first payment.

CDLE said new PUA and PEUC claimants, and claimants who had exhausted their previous benefits, are part of the second phase of the rollout of the resumed federal unemployment benefits. CDLE said it will announce when these claimants can begin applying.

CDLE also said that it continues to investigate fraud that has been running rampant in the UI system once the first PUA system became unavailable on Dec. 26.

Due to new DOL regulations, CDLE is now requiring all new claimants to use the identification verification system ID.me, as well as any claimants who have an active integrity hold on their benefits.

CDLE said that 500 individual holds were cleared last week once claimants verified their identity using ID.me, and another 2,000 claimants withhold are receiving instructions to clear their holds today.

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The number of Coloradans participating in the labor force in December reached the highest level since February 2020, which was before the coronavirus pandemic began, according to new numbers from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).

According to the survey of households, Colorado’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased in December to 8.4%. The national unemployment rate was unchanged from November at 6.7%. 

RELATED: Labor department town halls will address federal benefits, new unemployment system

Other highlights from the household survey include:

  • Colorado’s labor force grew by 42,400 in December to 3,212,600. The labor force participation rate increased by eight-tenths of a percentage point to 69%. The share of Coloradans participating in the labor force reached its highest level since February when it was 69.4%.
  • The number of individuals employed in Colorado decreased by 24,400 in December to 2,943,400, which represents 63.3 percent of the state’s 16+ population. Colorado’s employment-to-population ratio has been relatively flat since September.
  • Counties with the highest unemployment rates in December were: Pueblo (11.3%), Huerfano (11.0%), Gilpin (10.6%), Costilla (10.1%), and Clear Creek (9.6%). County-level unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted and are directly comparable to Colorado’s December unadjusted rate of 8.2%.

Nonfarm payroll jobs in Colorado declined by 20,300 from November to December for a total of 2,662,600 jobs, according to the survey of business establishments. Private-sector payroll jobs decreased by 20,600, while government added 300 jobs. 

RELATED: US jobless claims decline to a still-high 900,000

With December job losses, Colorado has gained back 191,500 of the 342,300 nonfarm payroll jobs lost between February and April. That translates to a job recovery rate of 55.9%, which marginally exceeds the U.S. rate of 55.6%.

CDLE on Thursday reported that due to the deployment of its new online unemployment benefits system, and impacts to underlying reports, it could not report claims or benefit payment data for week ending Jan. 16. CDLE says it expected that data to be available next week.