The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced on Thursday that April’s unemployment numbers for Georgia’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), regions, and counties are at a reported all-time high across all categories. Regional commissions reported unemployment rates at all-time highs in Atlanta, Coastal Georgia, Georgia Mountains, Northeast Georgia, Northwest Georgia, River Valley and Three Rivers, with Coastal Georgia topping out at 14 percent.
Georgia county unemployment documented record highs with the highest unemployment rates in Whitfield County at 20.6 percent, Murray County at 20.1 percent, Clay County at 18.1 percent, Chattooga County at 17.1 percent, Glynn County at 17.0 percent, Chatham County at 16.4 percent, Clayton County at 16.0 percent, Meriwether County at 15.8 percent, Troup County at 15.4 percent, and Heard County at 15.1 percent. In Dalton, the unemployment rate increased 15.3 percentage points in April, reaching 20.5 percent. A year ago, the rate was 4.1 percent.
“We are seeing all-time high unemployment rates across a majority of the state,” said Commissioner Mark Butler. “We are continuing to work with employers on effective strategies to get Georgians back to work in both a safe and economically efficient way.”
Weekly regular UI initial claims totaled 165,499, down 12,000 over the previous week. Of the weekly total, 112,910 (69%) were employer filed claims. Initial claims have declined three of the last four weeks. Payments over last week totaled $159,501,356 in regular weekly unemployment benefits, down $28 million over the prior week. This is the first decline in weekly benefits paid since week ending March 21. Since that date, over $1.087 billion has been paid in regular UI benefits, more than the last three years combined ($923 million).
The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States was 2.1 million last week, a decrease of 323,000 from the previous week.
Over the past 10 weeks, the sectors with the most regular UI initial claims processed included Accommodation and Food Services, 563,631, Health Care and Social Assistance, 254,406, Retail Trade, 252,688, Administrative and Support Services, 179,089, and Manufacturing, 164,735.
Last week, the GDOL issued over $56 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments to individuals who are self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of non-profits, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits. From week ending 3/21/2020 through 5/23/2020, 148,190 PUA claims have been processed and are eligible for payment.
In addition, the total federal funds issued for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, or FPUC, totaled over $495 million last week. Over the past ten weeks, the GDOL has issued almost $2.6 billion in FPUC federal funds. FPUC provides an additional $600 weekly payment to any individual eligible for any of the unemployment compensation programs – state and federal.
As of May 26, the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Balance was $1,657,754,330, down $890 million, or 35 percent, from the balance of $2,547,476,454 on March 24.
With the increased volume of claims processed, the GDOL is increasing its safeguards against unemployment fraud. The agency has implemented several levels of security to battle the “bad actors” including multiagency identity verification, quarterly wage verification with employers to prevent unauthorized unemployment benefits, and internal system defenses to protect personal identifiable information.
“We are being challenged to pay millions of Georgians in unemployment benefits as quickly as possible while also being expected to verify eligibility,” said Commissioner Butler. “We are relying on our partnerships with state agencies to assist us in meeting this demand accurately and expeditiously.”
The GDOL is continuing to work with employers to announce job opportunities that are critical during this crisis – some in the workplace and others that can be done from home. The GDOL highlights new opportunities on the Hot Links section of the GDOL website. The site is currently highlighting careers for project superintendents, production supervisors, executive directors, senior cost analysts, machine operators, clerks, and many other various positions. The GDOL is anticipating many new upper management positions in the next few weeks with key employers across the state. Today, over 101,000 jobs are listed online at EmployGeorgia.com for Georgians to access. The GDOL offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs.
At this time, the GDOL career centers are remaining closed to the public. All online services are still available as the staff continues to answer phones, return emails, and assist applicants. The GDOL will open offices to the public as soon as social distancing can be effectively implemented to protect both staff and customers.
Information on filing an unemployment claim, details on how employers can file partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at dol.georgia.gov.
For preliminary estimates and revised figures, for the total labor force, total employed, total unemployed, and percent unemployed--statewide, by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), cities over 25,000 in population, Regional Commission (RC), and county, please visit https://dol.georgia.gov/area-unemployment-rate-and-labor-force-estimates and select the Data PDF, under Civilian Labor Force Estimates.