Labor department: 25,000 Coloradans filed for unemployment this week

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DENVER — The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment estimates about 25,000 state residents have filed for unemployment insurance this week alone as state efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus shut down entire industries.

It’s unclear how many of these applicants were completely unemployed, or were taking advantage of Gov. Jared Polis’ orders to expand benefits to workers without paid sick leave that are awaiting virus testing or had their hours or pay cut by employers.

Throughout the week, Gov. Jared Polis ordered non-essential businesses to temporarily shut down and banned gatherings of more than 10 people to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Although restaurants, bars and breweries remain open for pick-up and deliveries, it caused an unprecedented wave of unemployment-insurance claims in a relatively short period of time.

That figure may not account for the newly unemployed or underemployed who haven’t been able to file online or speak to a claim representative over the phone. The rapid spike in claims caused multiple outages on the state labor department’s website, which as of Friday afternoon can handle only 1,200 visitors trying to file at a time. CDLE spokeswoman Cher Haavind said there were about 114,000 visits to the unemployment insurance website and 99,000 calls to this week.

Nor would that figure account for independent contractors and gig workers, who are counted by the federal government’s employment estimates but aren’t eligible to claim benefits.