ATLANTA – Initial unemployment claims in Georgia fell last week to a level not seen in the 21 weeks since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.
Unemployed Georgians filed 62,335 first-time claims last week, down 11,598 from the week before and less than 50% of the numbers the agency was seeing a month ago.
Georgia’s numbers reflected a nationwide drop in initial unemployment claims to 963,000, the first time that number was below 1 million since mid-March and a decrease of 228,000 from the previous week.
The labor department issued $309 million in regular unemployment benefits and federal funds last week, significantly less than the state had been paying out because the program supporting the $600 weekly federal checks the agency had been distributing expired at the end of July.
Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said there’s no need for recipients to call the agency to ask about the federal program because not enough information is available.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order last weekend to partially extend the benefits at the level of $400 per week, with the federal government to cover $300 and the states the other $100. But just how that money would be delivered remains uncertain.
“The president’s executive order gives states various options for implementing the White House plan,” Butler said. “The [labor department] is working with the governor’s office to provide financial resources to continue to bridge the gap for Georgia’s unemployed workforce. … [The agency] will deliver a system to process these weekly supplements as quickly as possible.”
Whether the money will come at all is in doubt. Officials in some states have complained they don’t have the money to provide the state match, while congressional Democrats have questioned whether Trump’s order is constitutional.
Since mid-March, the job sectors accounting for the most initial unemployment claims in Georgia is accommodations and food services with 818,180 claims. The health care and social assistance sector is next with 407,516 claims, followed by retail trade with 373,200.
As of Tuesday, the state’s unemployment trust fund balance had plummeted 85% since mid-March, to $385.4 million. Earlier this week, the state applied for a $1.1 billion federal loan to help replenish the fund.
More than 125,000 jobs are listed online at EmployGeorgia.com for Georgians to access. The labor department offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs.