Skip to content

Breaking News

Coloradans collecting unemployment will need to actively look for work again

But postings are way down and many workers are still attached to an employer

Screenshot of Colorado’s unemployment website.
Screenshot of Colorado’s unemployment website.

Now that economic activity is starting to pick up again, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will once again require those collecting unemployment benefits in the state to actively look for work.

“Because of the shelter-at-home executive order, we took steps to suspend work search requirements,” said Jeff Fitzgerald, director of the state’s unemployment insurance division, during a press call Thursday morning.

When authorities urged everyone to stay home as much as possible, the state suspended requirements that unemployment insurance claimants actively try to find a job. Because the state is transitioning to the safer-at-home phase and there is a “modest but important” reopening in the economy, that requirement will return, he said.

“We will be reinstituting the work search requirement for claimants broadly,” Fitzgerald said.

In normal times, those receiving benefits had to attest to completing five job searches or applications a week. But the state defines work search broadly. It can include networking, using the resources of a workforce center, and enhancing job skills.

In Colorado, close to a half-million people have successfully applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March, including 77,488 independent contractors and gig workers. The CDLE has paid out $1.65 billion in unemployment assistance since mid-March, including $616.8 million from the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, said senior economist Ryan Gedney.

Self-employed workers, who are new to collecting unemployment benefits, must also vouch that they are actively looking for work. What that means needs to be sorted out. It likely won’t mean Lyft and Uber drivers waiting in their cars for ride requests that still aren’t there. But does it mean they deliver for GrubHub or Amazon Fresh?

Another complication is that about eight in 10 unemployed workers expect to be called back. What does an active job search mean for Coloradans on furloughs, and will their employers take kindly to the state pushing them to search for other opportunities?

And for those whom employers have cut loose, a big question is what opportunities are actually out there for them, especially in the hardest-hit industries.

The job search site Indeed estimates that postings nationally were down 35% the week of May 22 compared to a year earlier. Metro Denver suffered the third-biggest drop in postings at 46% as of May 22, with only Honolulu and Miami reporting bigger drops.

Job postings in banking and finance, arts and entertainment, and child care are half of what they were a year ago.  And in hospitality and leisure, postings are down by two-thirds.

“Postings are down across the board, even in sectors not directly impacted by the coronavirus and where many jobs can be done from home,” Indeed Hiring Lab chief economist Jed Kolko said in his blog post.

Software development postings, for example, are down 40.1% from this time last year, and management job postings are down 39.3%.

Cher Haavind, deputy executive director of the CDLE, detailed several steps Thursday that the department is taking to help claimants get questions answered and relieve pressure on call centers, which have been overwhelmed.

Starting June 8, the Unemployment Insurance Division’s public lobby at 251 E. 12th Ave. will reopen to the public from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays for in-person help. Any appointments, which are expected to be in high demand, must be scheduled in advance, starting on June 1. About 40 to 50 people a day should receive assistance.

The department has also launched new “how-to” video series to address the most common questions, including:  “Get Paid – Regular Claim”, “Get Paid – PUA Claim” and “How to Know Which Claim.” The videos are available at

There will also be another UI Virtual Town Hall Series at 9:15 a.m. Friday in English and 11:30 a.m. in Spanish.

Haavind said the department is also partnering with a technology vendor to deploy a Google-developed solution that can help answer basic questions claimants have and save staff capacity for more complicated queries. That could mean fewer unanswered calls.