State unemployment pay shows signs of leveling out


At a glance

States with the smallest increases in personal income in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the first quarter:

1. Nevada — 0.35 percent

2. Oregon — 0.63 percent

3. Indiana — 0.70 percent

4. New Jersey — 0.761 percent

5. Mississippi — 0.767 percent

6. Colorado — 0.769 percent

7. Hawaii — 0.80 percent

8. New York — 0.81 percent

9. California — 0.84 percent

10. Wyoming — 0.89 percent

Source: U.S. Bureau

of Economic Analysis

After riding a roller coaster of double-digit increases in 2008 and 2009, the lump sum of unemployment benefits paid to Coloradans increased by the smallest percentage in three years in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the previous quarter.

The total amount of unemployment benefits received by Colorado residents increased slightly more than a quarter of a percent in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the first quarter, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Income received from employment, meanwhile, increased just over a half of a percent.

Some may take this as a sign the state’s unemployment situation is improving or getting closer to seeing a decrease in unemployment income.

But Mesa County Workforce Center Supervisor Gilbert Lujan isn’t convinced the near-flatlining of unemployment benefit payouts statewide correlates with people finding jobs.

“I think more than anything it may just be people are exhausting their benefits,” Lujan said.

Initial unemployment claims as well as continuing claims have recently declined in Mesa County, Lujan said. But people who lost jobs months ago have stayed on unemployment insurance longer than usual, he said, with plenty running out of benefits before finding work.

An almost unwavering unemployment rate statewide and locally, plus a greater number of people applying for food assistance in Mesa County because they no longer have unemployment benefits, makes Lujan believe many who dropped off the unemployment roster didn’t leave for jobs. Some did though, which allows for Colorado’s increase in employment-related income growth.

Unemployment and wage income information is not available for the second or first quarter for metropolitan areas, so it’s hard to say which cities are succeeding best with unemployed people finding jobs rather than running out of benefits. The unemployment rate decreased year over year, though, in July by 0.3 to 0.6 percent in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Grand Junction.

Colorado is one of 17 states where the unemployment income level grew between the first and second quarters of 2010. The state paid out $2.207 billion in benefits in April, May and June, up $6 million from January, February and March and up $561 million from the second quarter of 2009.

The total paid to Coloradans in benefits has increased each quarter since the third quarter of 2007, passing the $1 billion mark for a quarterly payout in the first quarter of 2009.

When it comes to personal income growth, which includes unemployment and other benefits, money earned at work and from property, Colorado recorded the sixth-smallest gain in the U.S. in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the first.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed Colorado residents took in nearly eight-tenths of a percent more income in the second quarter. They collected 2.6 percent more income year-over-year in the second quarter.


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