Colorado Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • Find out about Colorado's unemployment insurance benefits, including how to apply for them, whether you're eligible and how Colorado calculates your payments.

In the state of Colorado, unemployment insurance benefits are administered by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). You may be eligible for these benefits if you have lost your job due to no fault of your own, such as through a closure, layoff or other similar circumstances. This guide covers everything you need to know about qualifying or applying for benefits.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Colorado?

If you meet all of Colorado's requirements, you can receive unemployment benefits every 2 weeks as you seek out work again. To qualify for benefits, you must:

  • Be a legal resident of the state of Colorado
  • Have prior work history in Colorado during the past 12 months
  • Have earned a minimum amount of wages determined by state guidelines
  • Be unemployed for a reason with no fault or blame due to you 
  • Be physically able to work and actively seeking a new job
  • Have earned at least $2,500 during your base period

What Is a Base Period?

A base period is a time frame the CDLE reviews as it determines your eligibility for benefits. A standard base period is defined as the first four of the last five calendar quarters you worked at your previous job before the start date of your claim. (A calendar quarter is equal to 3-month segments of the year beginning in January.)

However, if you didn't earn at least $2,500 during the standard base period, you may still qualify for benefits by using an alternate base period that takes only your last four calendar quarters of employment into account. You must specifically request this by following the instructions you find on the Statement of Wages and Possible Benefits, which you'll receive shortly after filing your claim.

Work Search Requirements for Maintaining Eligibility

Unemployment benefits are a temporary income replacement and are not meant to be relied upon as a sole source of income over an extended period of time. If you are approved, it would be beneficial to continue looking for work and establishing a plan to be able to support yourself. You must maintain your eligibility as you receive your benefits. The CDLE does have the right to audit your job search records for up to two years since the start of your claim in order to make sure you continue meeting these requirements.

The CDLE also staffs fifty workforce centers throughout the state that provide a variety of services including resume preparation, interviewing search, market research and job training at no cost to job seekers. You will be required to complete work search activities that are designed to help you find new employment opportunities. You must document and keep record of your efforts, as you will be asked to present them and report your progress when you obtain your benefit payments.

The CDLE recommends that you complete at least five work search activities per week in order to return to work as soon as possible. 

How Do You Apply for Colorado Unemployment Benefits?

You should apply for unemployment benefits to the CDLE as soon as you become unemployed. The CDLE will contact your previous employer(s) to determine whether or not you qualify for benefits. In particular, they will confirm the reasons behind why you are no longer employed. Follow these instructions to apply.

  1. Gather your personal information. Before you apply, make sure you have all the necessary information right in front of you for easy access, including:


  • Social Security number.
  • Your home address, mailing address, telephone number and a valid email address.
  • Prior employment history and information (addresses, telephone numbers, employment dates, reasons for leaving, etc.) 
  • Any additional wages you received from paid time off, severance pay and other sources.
  • Bank name and address and your routing and account number, if you should choose to receive benefit payouts via direct deposit.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or an Alien Registration number.
  • A DD Form 214, Member 4 if you were on active duty in the U.S. military at any point throughout the past 18 months.
  • A Standard Form 8 and Standard Form 50 if you worked for the federal government in the last 18 months.
  1. Submit your claim. You can file a claim for unemployment insurance online by making a MyUI account. You can also file by phone at (303) 318-9000 (metro Denver) or 1 (800) 388-5515 (outside metro Denver).
  2. Wait for approval. After filing a Colorado unemployment application, you will typically receive an approval or rejection from the CDLE within two weeks. 

How Much Do You Get From Colorado Unemployment?

If you qualify to receive benefits, you can receive between 50 - 60% of your average weekly wage during your base period. The CDLE utilizes two different formulas to determine your weekly benefit amount and pays you whichever number is higher:

  1. The first formula takes the total wages from your highest two consecutive quarters in the base period and divides that number by 26. Then, it's multiplied by 0.6. If this is the higher number, the maximum amount you can receive is $561.
  2. The second formula considers the total wages earned throughout your entire base period, divides that number by 52, then divides that by 2. If this is the higher number, the maximum amount you can receive is $618.

Benefits are typically available for a total of 26 weeks, although extensions might be supplied in periods of high unemployment. 

What Happens if Unemployment Claims in Colorado Are Denied?

Unfortunately, some Colorado residents may be denied unemployment benefits if they fail to meet the prerequisites for eligibility. If any one of these factors are unmet, you will be denied benefits. However, applicants who are denied have to right to file an appeal.

In order to begin a denial appeal, you must contact the Colorado unemployment department throughout their website, phone, fax or email and request a hearing. Once your request has been received, you will be given a specific date and time for your hearing. 

It's important to file your appeal within 15 calendar days of receiving notification of your denial. If you request an appeal hearing but receive no confirmation after 10 days, you can call the Colorado appeals department to inquire about it. This hearing will give you an opportunity to have your personal testimony, documents and former employee statements re-reviewed. 

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