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Nearly half of jobless claims deemed valid as Department of Labor processes record numbers
Dept of Labor.jpg
The Georgia Department of Labor office is located at 2756 Atlanta Highway in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

Update, April 30: Nearly half of Georgia’s 1.37 million initial jobless claims processed since mid-March have been deemed “valid with enough earned wages,” the Georgia Department of Labor said in a press release Thursday, April 30.

The number of successful claims is 725,000 claims.

The release doesn’t give the status of the 644,000 claims considered invalid, but says people with invalid claims 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, the labor department has reported that 444,195 Georgians have received their first payment.

Update, April 23: The Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday, April 23, it has processed nearly 1.1 million claims in the past month, more than the combined total for the previous three years.

Update, April 16: The number of initial jobless claims has reached an all-time high, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday, April 16.

Since March 14, the Georgia Department of Labor has processed over 861,000 claims, including 319,581 April 5-11.

“We are reaching unprecedented claim levels of almost 1 million Georgians filing for unemployment,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “That is 1 in every 10 people who are turning to the GDOL for unemployment assistance. This is a massive undertaking, but one that I know we are capable of achieving.”

Georgia has 10.6 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 estimate.

Unemployment claims showed an increase of 290,068 claims, or 1,292%, in March, and were up by 293,774 claims, or 1,567%, from March 2019. 

The monthly total was higher than the annual total for each of the previous two years, 291,962 in 2019, and 310,494 in 2018, according to the department.

March 2020 labor statistics also showed that the over-the-month increase for the unemployment rate was the largest on record.

The unemployment rate increased by 1.1 percentage points in March, to reach 4.2%. A year ago, the rate was 3.7%. The highest increase in initial claims for unemployment over the month was in accommodation and food services, 132,564; health care and social assistance, 37,621; and trade, 23,074.

More than $509 million in state and federal benefits have been issued by the labor department since mid-March, spokeswoman Kersha Cartwright said.

The department is striving to keep the same timeframe in distributing benefits to unemployment applicants as before the pandemic, Butler said during a teleconference with reporters Thursday afternoon.

“If an employer filed on behalf of their employees, and they did everything correctly, they can easily see payments in 7 days,” he said.

Otherwise, “if an individual files, normally those payments get paid out in about 21 days, maybe a little bit longer,” Butler said. “And we’re staying fairly close to that number.”

Previous story: The Georgia Department of Labor processed 133,820 claims during the week of March 22-28, the highest number of claims it has ever processed in a week, the department reported Thursday, April 2.

“This represents an increase of 1,102% over the prior week ending March 21 with 12,140 claims,” according to a labor department news release.

The 12,140 claims were more than what was filed during the peak of the 2008-2009 recession.

“We are seeing the number of claims filed in Georgia skyrocket to levels we have never experienced before,” Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. “Our team is working overtime, nights and weekends to process the tremendous volume — taking time away from their own families to help Georgia’s families.”

Some 64,000 Georgians received $14.6 million in unemployment benefits for the week ending Saturday, March 28.

“People are anxious and worried about their health, their families, and how they are going to continue to make it financially during these uncertain times,” Butler said. “We are here to help Georgians get through this economic struggle.”

Georgians can visit the GDOL website at to access applications, step-by-step instructions, and video tutorials on applying for unemployment.

“With the huge volume of claims the agency is receiving, people need to use the online tools where possible,” the release states.

The federal stimulus package approved by Congress last week expanded unemployment insurance benefits, among other things.