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Economic impact expected to hit home as government funded programs are set to end

Even with the high unemployment rate in Routt County, help wanted signs can still be found, at least for the time being.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — By this time next week, the latest unemployment numbers for Routt County should be released, and while officials expect a slight drop in that number, the outlook for those looking for work is expected to remain challenging.

“The unemployment rate for the state of Colorado will come out on Friday, and then a week from Friday, we should have an update on the Routt County numbers for the month of May,” said Jessica Valand, regional director with the Colorado Workforce Center. “I think the rate might come down a little bit, but when I look at our continuing claim data for the month of May, I don’t think it’s going to come down a ton.”

Valand said the actual number of people who have filed and are currently getting unemployment benefits during the last week of May was 1,820 people. The most Routt County has had in any one week since the pandemic started was 1,965.

“We have come down a little but not very much,” Valand said.

She hopes last month’s unemployment rate of 17% will drop as restaurants and other businesses begin to reopen, but she isn’t sure the most current date will reflect that.

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“The people receiving unemployment and the people who show up in the unemployment rate, that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison,” Valand said. “I will not speculate on what’s going to happen to the rate itself, but I can tell you that in terms of people who are receiving unemployment, there were more of them in May than there were in April.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics comes up with unemployment numbers by polling 60,000 U.S. households. The Bureau asks if that person has actively looked for work inside of the last four weeks and if they are available to work. Those who answer “no” to either question are not included in the official numbers.

Valand said there are two ways to look at unemployment claims. The first is the initial claims that represent people who have filed new claims. Those numbers peaked a few weeks ago and have been steadily declining. Then there are the continuing claims, which have remained relatively flat.

Valand said she expects another bump in people applying for unemployment benefits as the Paycheck Protection Program comes to an end. Then on July 31, the CARES Act provision that gives those on unemployment benefits an additional $600 a week will also come to a close. Without that program, those on unemployment will start to feel the real impacts of the slowing economy.

“If somebody has a valid unemployment insurance claim, they will continue to get unemployment for a total of 39 weeks, but that is going to be reduced by half or more when that added $600 goes away,” Valand said. “That’s a really big cliff for people to be anticipating, and we’re really actively encouraging folks to be aggressively looking for work, brushing up the resume and contacting our offices to figure out what types of jobs are out there locally or potentially in other areas.

“That added $600 a week has really enabled them to stay afloat,” Valand added. “Once that goes away, it’s going to get very challenging.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.


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