While a far cry from the early days of the pandemic, when unemployment in Pitkin County surged to a record 23.6% in April, the jobless rate of 10.2% in the most recent reporting period is double what it was during the same month in 2019, an economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said Friday.
Still, continuing jobless claims for the first three weeks of December showed some improvement over the prior month, though the most current data on employment figures won’t be released until Jan. 22, according to Monicque Aragon, economist and statistical analyst for CDLE. For November, the most recent information available, Pitkin County unemployment was behind only San Miguel County, which has a rate of 11.2% and well ahead of the non-seasonally adjusted statewide rate of 6.2%.
Last week, wallethub.com published a survey that said Colorado has the country’s second slowest recovery for weekly unemployment rates based upon a comparison of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
According to the survey, “There are currently 10.7 million Americans unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in total. Last week, there were 787,000 new unemployment claims nationwide, which is a lot fewer than the 6.9 million during the peak of the pandemic (an 89% reduction),” it was noted.
According to Aragon, the state’s economist, “Increases in unemployment in Pitkin County during the month of November are not atypical, Historically, Pitkin has seasonal increases in unemployment in May and in November. However, the increase in Nov. 2020 was amplified due to COVID-19 and subsequent business restrictions that were put into place in Pitkin County during November.”
After hitting a record-high 23.6% in April, the county’s unemployment rate improved, month by month, to 7% in September. However, it began rising again in October, to 7.5%, and then 10.2% in November.
Exact estimates on the number of Pitkin County residents receiving unemployment benefits were unavailable Friday, though the number of continued claims filed as a “proxy” do give an idea of trend lines.
“This estimate includes continued claims filed under regular unemployment insurance, pandemic emergency unemployment compensation (PEUC), and state extended benefits. We do not have the breakout for continued claims filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program,” Aragon said.
Under those programs and for the first three weeks of December, an average of 549 continued claims were filed on a weekly basis in Pitkin County. That reflects a decline from the first three weeks in November, when an average of 761 weekly continued claims were filed, she said.
Statewide, the average weekly benefit claim was approximately $370 in November, down from last year the same month when the average benefit was $440.
“This difference is due to the industry composition in claims activity this year, for example, lower paying industries with a higher number of claims mean a lower average weekly benefit amount,” she said.
According to the state’s data, the average weekly wage for Pitkin County increased in the second quarter (the most recent data available) to $1,161 from $1,038 in the first quarter.
However, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which includes all workers covered under the Unemployment Insurance program, Pitkin County workers lagged behind the statewide average weekly wage of $1,227 in the second quarter.
In the wallethub.com study it was noted, “The pandemic is still raging across the U.S., and different states have reopened at different rates. Some states have paused their reopening plans or have even reversed course and issued new restrictions.”