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Guv aims to help long-term unemployed


COLORADO SPRINGS – Colorado’s unemployment rate is below the national average, but tens of thousands of residents have been unable to find a job for more than six months – an issue Gov. John Hickenlooper plans to address in the coming months.

While details are being finalized, Hickenlooper gave local government officials a glimpse this week of what his plan will look like when his administration unveils it.

The Democratic governor said he wants to encourage companies to hire people who have been out of work for several months, with the promise that the state will provide prospective employees the training they need at community colleges or workplace training sites.

“Lord knows there are lots of jobs out there,” Hickenlooper said this week during the annual conference for Colorado Counties Inc. in Colorado Springs. “The challenge is getting the interface, the connection between making sure that people looking for jobs have the skills that employers are looking for.”

The governor’s office said it’s early to say whether Hickenlooper intends to implement his plan administratively or with legislation.

Colorado’s unemployment rate was just over 9 percent four years ago. Now it’s at 4.3 percent, below the national rate of 5.8 percent, but there are many who are struggling to find jobs while the state’s economy continues to improve.

The state Department of Labor and Employment said that through October there were about 48,100 people in Colorado who had been unemployed for at least 26 weeks, which is defined as long-term unemployment.

Hickenlooper frequently talks about his experience being laid off as a geologist in the 1980s and said he can relate to what some people are going through.

“I can tell you for a fact, if you’ve been out of work that long, once you get past about five months, six months, you begin to see a different person in the mirror,” he said. “A lot of things you took for granted, the confidence you had, isn’t there. I think that’s part of the challenge that each county faces and that our entire state faces.”

Hickenlooper also said he wants to find ways to connect young people to their first jobs and help people with disabilities find work. The state labor department does not keep track of the unemployment rate for people with disabilities. But the agency said the unemployment rate for people 20 to 24 years old is 8.3 percent, meaning 21,700 in that age group are unemployed.

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