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An additional 19,024 people filed for traditional unemployment benefits in the week ending Dec. 5, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Thursday, an increase of 1,894 from the week prior.

The number of people in Colorado who applied for state-level Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in that week rose from 14,242 claims in the week ending Nov. 28 to 17,232 in the week ending Dec. 5. That program provides assistance for gig workers, the self-employed and others who wouldn’t normally qualify for regular benefits.

In a call with reporters Thursday morning, CDLE senior economist Ryan Gedney said these increases in new claimants coincide with several of Colorado’s most populous counties going to higher levels of COVID restrictions amid an unprecedented spike in cases, with restaurants and the service industry having the most number of new claimants. The increase in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims is also partially driven by claimants receiving regular benefits losing their eligibility due to time restraints, he said.

The total number of continuing claims made in the state was at 224,592 for the week of Nov. 28, which includes all state and federal assistance programs, up 10,373 from the week before.

The overall amount of benefits paid out by the department rose from $90 million in the week ending Nov. 28 to $103 million this week. That spike was partially driven by unemployment beneficiaries receiving a one-time $375 payment from the state coffers after Gov. Jared Polis ordered payments as a small stimulus.

State labor officials are no longer holding weekly press conferences with reporters for the rest of the year due to furloughs.

Nationwide, the U.S. Labor Department said 853,000 Americans filed for first-time benefits in the period, an increase of 137,000 from the week prior and a sign that the skyrocketing caseloads across the country and subsequent restrictions are again shaking a start-and-stop economy.

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