Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler

ATLANTA – First-time unemployment claims in Georgia increased by 5,581 last week to 37,039, reflecting a national trend, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

As a result, the state agency paid out more than $223 million to jobless Georgians last week, as benefit checks authorized by a second COVID-19 relief package Congress passed during the holidays continued uninterrupted.

However, the agency is continuing to work on implementing changes to the system required by the new stimulus package. That work has to be completed before those eligible for the 11 weeks of extended payments can receive all of their benefits.

“Our … teams are working around the clock to implement the new guidelines that include complex requirements and programming,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said.

“The complexity of some of the additional specifications are challenging to program and will be an increased burden, not only on our staff, but to claimants as well. They could’ve done this in a more simplified manner with more input from the states.”

The labor agency is encouraging claimants to continue requesting weekly payments for those who have exhausted benefits or are awaiting eligibility determinations. All eligible payments will be issued when a decision on eligibility is released.

Since the pandemic first took hold in Georgia last March, the labor department has distributed more than $17 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits to nearly 4.3 million Georgians, more than the combined total from the nine years before the virus hit.

The job sector accounting for the most initial unemployment claims in Georgia last week was manufacturing with 8,582 claims. The accommodation and food services job sector was next with 6,682 claims, followed by administrative and support services with 4,595.

More than 169,000 jobs are listed online at for Georgians to access.  The labor department offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs.