Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler

ATLANTA – More than 266,000 Georgians filed initial unemployment claims last week, up about 19,000 from the previous week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

That brings to nearly 1.4 million the number of claims the labor agency has processed during the six weeks since schools and businesses began shutting down prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The industry sector in Georgia by far the hardest hit by job losses is accommodations and food services, with 396,209 initial unemployment claims during the past six weeks. Health care and social assistance is next with 157,496 claims, followed closely by retail trade with 156,123.

Workers in administrative and support services have filed 109,483 unemployment claims during the past six weeks, while 105,122 claims have come from those in manufacturing.

“The accommodation and food service sector has truly suffered during this pandemic,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday. “We hope that employers and employees can work together to find a return-to-work plan that can work for both parties allowing for continued financial support from state and federal programs as we gradually reopen Georgia for business.”

Employers and their employees have worked together closely when it comes to filing claims. About 75% of the initial unemployment claims during the past six weeks have been filed by employers on behalf of their workers.

The labor department paid out more than $155 million in unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total for the past six weeks to $388 million. That’s more than the annual total for each of the past four years.

“Our employees are managing unprecedented numbers of claims and are getting people paid,” Butler said.

Many of the remaining unpaid claims are awaiting eligibility determination. Delays have occurred in cases where duplicate claims have been filed, identification has been requested, excessive weekly earnings have been reported or child support stops have been issued.

Butler said Georgians whose claims are ruled invalid still might be eligible for federal unemployment assistance. Groups eligible for the federal program include the self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches or other nonprofits or those with limited work history.

The Georgia Department of Labor has issued more than $700 million in federal funds during the past six weeks, including more than $336 million last week alone.

Meanwhile, the agency is continuing to post job opportunities. More than 106,000 jobs are listed online at