Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler

ATLANTA – Initial unemployment claims in Georgia declined last week, resuming a downward trend that began two months ago, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The 43,526 first-time claims filed last week was down 5,895 from the previous week, which saw initial claims increase for the first time in eight weeks.

Since March 21, when Georgia businesses began shutting down to discourage the spread of coronavirus, nearly 3.8 million Georgians have filed initial unemployment claims, more than during the last eight years combined.

The labor department paid out almost $14.5 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits during that time.

Last week, the agency issued $669 million in benefits, mostly through a federal program President Donald Trump launched in August after Congress failed to extend an earlier program that expired at the end of July

The labor department paid out nearly $500 million through the Lost Wages Assistance program last week, bringing the total to more than $980 million.

Meanwhile, the agency reminded recipients of benefits to keep a close eye on their unemployment insurance accounts, as they would bank or credit-card accounts.

“We have seen many cases where bad actors possess an extraordinary amount of personal information that they have obtained from the dark web,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday. “A lot of these attacks have a high level of sophistication and are well executed, making it very hard to identify them as fraud by just a cursory glance.”

The labor department is working with a special task force of state and federal agencies targeting individual and organized crime. To help identify potential fraud, the agency encourages Georgians to report fraud and abuse on the department’s homepage under Online Services at

Since March 21, the accommodation and food services job sector has accounted for the most first-time unemployment claims in Georgia with 906,985. The health-care and social assistance job sector is next with 438,821 claims, followed by retail trade with 402,299.