Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler

ATLANTA – Georgia’s unemployment rate fell to 4.5% last month, the lowest since the coronavirus pandemic broke out last March, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

Joblessness, which hit a record low of 3.1% before the pandemic, has plummeted from an all-time high of 12.6% last April.

“The fact that we have so quickly reduced our unemployment rate to almost pre-pandemic levels demonstrates how strong our economy was prior to the crisis and how we are successfully recovering economically,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said. “[But] we still have a lot of work to do in order for growth to continue.”

Also on the positive side, the number of initial unemployment claims filed in Georgia last week fell by 4,201 to 19,626. That bucked the national numbers, which rose sharply by 31,000 as some states and municipalities instituted lockdowns due to a surge of COVID-19 cases.

The labor department has paid out nearly $16 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits since last March, including $163 million last week.

Since March 21, the agency has processed just more than 4 million initial unemployment claims, more than the last nine years combined.

The job sector accounting for the most first-time unemployment claims last week was accommodation and food services with 4,155 claims. The health care and social assistance sector was next with 2,863, followed by administrative and support services with 2,258.

More than 162,000 jobs are currently listed on EmployGeorgia. The labor department is working with a number of employers to arrange virtual hiring events across the state. The list includes Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins; Shaw Industries and Mohawk in Calhoun, Adairsville and Cartersville; and Biolife in Social Circle.