Colorado paid a heavier price economically in its fight against COVID-19 than other states in 2020 |

Colorado paid a heavier price economically in its fight against COVID-19 than other states in 2020

Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post

With COVID-19 cases rising rapidly, indoor dining going away, and federal support for small businesses stalled in Congress, Brandon Bortles made an excruciating decision last November — he closed his Abejas and Nosu Ramen restaurants in Golden and directed about 30 of his remaining workers to apply for state unemployment benefits.

“My capital was so low I couldn’t float them. Our hand was forced,” said Bortles, who doesn’t know when he will reopen, despite an easing of restrictions on indoor dining last month.

His layoffs were part of a much larger 24,300 jobs lost at restaurants and bars across the state in December, according to senior state labor economist Ryan Gedney. Losses in food service employment, combined with a surge in people rejoining the labor force, helped push up Colorado’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate from 6.4% in November to 8.4% in December.

As 2020 came to an end, Colorado had 269,200 people without a job and actively looking for one, a higher total for the state than at any month during the Great Recession, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It also had the nation’s fourth-highest unemployment rate after Hawaii, California and Nevada. Entering the pandemic, Colorado had the fifth-lowest unemployment rate at 2.5%.

Officials in every state have engaged in a grim calculus during the pandemic — balancing the need to protect human life against preserving livelihoods. Colorado’s calculation was effective in lowering case counts, but it also may have derailed one of the most robust labor markets in the nation.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.