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Department of Labor: Georgia unemployment 2.8 percentage points lower than U.S. last month
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The Georgia Department of Labor office is located at 2756 Atlanta Highway in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

Update, Sept. 17: Georgia’s unemployment rate was 5.6% in August, down from 7.6% in July, the Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday, Sept. 17.

The state is outperforming the U.S., which had an 8.4% jobless rate in August, according to a Sept. 4 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

August numbers for Georgia’s metropolitan areas, including Hall County, will be released later this month. Hall’s preliminary unemployment rate in July was 5.6%, the labor department reported in August.

Update, July 30: More than $11 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits has been paid out residents of the Peach State since March 21, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

The good news, according to the report, is that last week, claims were down by more than 37,000 from the week prior for a total of 84,984 for the week ending July 25.

“As additional claims are being filed, we have been able to maintain an impressive ratio of eligible claims filed to payouts,” said Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “Record breaking payout rates represent a new standard for this department as we strive to better serve Georgians.”

The Georgia DOL has over the past week issued more than $7.7 billion in federal funds that have provided an additional $600 weekly unemployment payments to "any individual eligible for any of the unemployment compensation programs." The program created during the pandemic to provide that money ends this week, and GDOL says it is waiting on a decision from Congress on whether the program will be extended, amended or permanently stopped. The Times is tracking that development.

The Times Digital Editor Thomas Hartwell contributed to this report.

Update, July 23: Some $1 billion in unemployment benefits were issued last week, compared to the $922 million issued over the past three years combined, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. 

“The fact that we paid more than $1 billion in benefits in five days is a huge accomplishment,” said Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler.  “When you think that the average weekly benefit amount is $246, the sheer volume of payments we are issuing is phenomenal.” 

Since March 21, almost $10.5 billion has been paid to eligible Georgians in unemployment benefits, the agency says.

Update, May 14: The Georgia Department of Labor has issued over $2.4 billion in combined state and federal unemployment benefits in the past eight weeks, officials said Thursday, May 14.

Since mid-March, the department has processed 1.8 million regular initial unemployment claims. Of those claims, 812,281 have been deemed valid.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said many people are filing claims who can't prove they have been working, which means the department is denying them.

"We are getting a lot of claims filed on people who have no work history at all," Butler said. "I think the word has gotten out 'Go ahead and file, maybe you'll get it.'"

Another 241,000 Georgia workers filed for unemployment last week, up from 228,000 in the week ended May 2. The number of people that were getting unemployment benefits actually fell by 75,000 people from a week earlier. The reason behind that drop wasn't immediately clear.

Those eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — such as the self-employed, gig workers, independent contractors, and church and nonprofit organization employees — received $29 million in jobless benefits last week. 

As of last week, 108,097 PUA applications were processed and are eligible for payment.

Butler told reporters Thursday that more than 50,000 people are forgetting to claim their benefits. Recipients have to claim their benefits each week, telling officials they are still unemployed.

Some 575,000 Georgians — or 85% of eligible claimants — have received their first payment.

“That is more recipients than the past four years combined,” Butler said.

The state has been requiring employers who have furloughed workers to file claims on the workers' behalf. 

Butler announced a program that will allow employer-filed partial claims to be converted to individual claims. 

“This new process will allow employees who are permanently terminated the opportunity to continue receiving benefits without interruption,” the department said.

Many economists have worried that temporary layoffs will become permanent as the crisis drags on. Butler said few such temporary layoffs had become permanent so far in Georgia, but he couldn't give any figures.

In the past eight weeks, the accommodation and food services sector led with the most initial jobless claims.

Accommodation and food services: 493,600

Health care and social assistance: 221,519

Retail: 211,032

Administrative and support services: 147,834

Manufacturing: 139,566

Associated Press contributed.

Previous story: The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday, May 7, that it has issued over $1.7 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits in the past seven weeks.

Since the week ending March 21, the department has processed almost 1.6 million initial unemployment claims. Of those claims, 778,330 were “valid with enough earned wages to receive benefits,” according to a statement, and about 66% of those with valid claims have received their first payment.

Last week, the Department of Labor processed 228,352 claims, and 75% of those complaints were employer-filed. The number of initial unemployment claims filed nationwide was 3.1 million last week, a decrease of 677,000 from the previous week, according to the department.

Industries with the most unemployment claims have included accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, retail, administrative and support services, and manufacturing.

As of May 2, the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Balance was about $2 billion, up $34 million from the previous week’s balance. The increase was due to tax revenue collections of $165 million deposited on April 30 exceeding the benefit payments for the week, according to the Department of Labor.

People who are self-employed, gig workers, independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of nonprofits, or those with limited work history could be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance if their unemployment claims were invalid or denied. As of last week, 83,583 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance applications were processed and are eligible for payment, according to the Department of Labor. 

The Department of Labor has a website with job listings. People can also file unemployment claims on the department’s website.