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DOL: Georgia jobless rate drops in June, but more claims could come
Dept of Labor.jpg
The Georgia Department of Labor office is located at 2756 Atlanta Highway in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

Update, July 16: Georgia's jobless rate dropped in June to 7.6%, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday, July 16. A year ago, the rate was 3.5%.

“June was the first month to show positive numbers in all major indicators since the pandemic started,” Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. “Although it is nice to see the pendulum move in the right direction, we are not naïve to the fact that we may see another tick up in claims over the next few months.

“We will continue to work unemployment claims both new and continued to ensure all Georgians are being taken care of during these unprecedented times.”

Update, June 18: Georgia’s preliminary May jobless rate is 9.7%, dropping from April’s 12.6%, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

The number of those working was up 144,877 over April, but down 480,592 compared to this time last year, and totals 4.4 million.

“I think we are going to continue to see big drops in the unemployment rate as Georgia continues to open back up,” Commissioner Mark Butler said. “We have to remember that the recent unemployment was not caused by an economic catalyst, but instead by a medical emergency. Those jobs are still out there for the most part.”

Update, May 21: Extras: Georgia's jobless rate hit 11.9% in April, an all-time high, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday, May 21.

By comparison, the rate was 3.6% one year ago.

The Hall County area's unemployment rate for April was not available Thursday.

The number of unemployed statewide increased from 342,601 to 581,820. April’s numbers represent the highest one-month recorded increase and also the highest total unemployment on record, according to a labor department press release.

The previous high was 10.6%, which occurred in December 2010, or following the 2007-09 recession, Commissioner Mark Butler said.

“However, the cause of this high unemployment rate differs greatly from that of the previous record, and I have no doubt that we will recover just as quickly and get back to our record lows once again,” Butler said.

He said in a press briefing that he based his optimism on “a lot of years’ experience in watching the economy and how we’ve been able to bounce back from a recession.”

Butler added, “There’s no doubt there’s going to be some industries it’s going to take a little bit longer to recover, but Georgia, I do believe, is ready to go back to work.”

Jobs are available, he said.

“This is not the same as being in an economic recession where there aren’t any jobs,” Butler said. “What we’re seeing is a temporary recession that’s based on a health issue.”

The department also said it has issued more than $3.1 billion in combined state and federal unemployment benefits in the past nine weeks.

Previous article: Swimming in jobless claims from the past month, the Georgia Department of Labor has deemed about half of them valid while still sorting through the rest.

The department said Thursday, April 30, that about 725,000 of Georgia’s 1.37 million initial jobless claims processed since mid-March — or about half — have been deemed “valid with enough earned wages.”

Officials say reasons vary for why the remaining 644,000 claims have been considered invalid, including that applicants could potentially be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which includes the self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of nonprofits, or those with limited work history who do not otherwise qualify for state unemployment benefits. 

Also, “many are still in the claims process awaiting eligibility determination,” according to the labor department.

This includes cases where duplicate claims have been filed, identification has been requested, excessive weekly earnings have been reported, or child support stops have been issued.  “These claims require additional handling and the GDOL is working diligently to address many of these stops,” according to a labor department press release.

“Unemployment is not a one-sided application,” Labor Commissioner Mark Butler told reporters in a Thursday briefing. “We have data that’s coming in from the employer and the individual. One of the things we have to be careful about is making sure we are paying the proper person the proper way.”

Also, the labor department has reported that 444,195 Georgians have received their first payment, or about 62% of the valid claims.

“Our employees are managing unprecedented numbers of claims and are getting people paid,” Butler said. “To say that we have issued more payments in the past six weeks than in the past four years combined is quite an accomplishment.”

The department also is starting to see “organized ways of trying to commit fraud in the system,” Butler said.

He cited one case that involved 95 claims filed for one bank account.

“A lot of these stops that cause people’s claims to be slowed down … are part of (safeguards) that have been put in over the years to stop people from either gaming the system or committing fraud,” Butler said.