Moreover, the Department of Labor also has put in place tougher requirements for keeping unemployment benefits. Now, Georgians must submit proof each week that they are searching for a job, listing at least three employers they have contacted.
Unemployment payments, which typically tops out at $365 a week, are meant to be only temporary support, said Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner. “The real support comes from the connection of job seekers with open positions.”
About 223,000 job openings are listed on the DOL’s jobs site, he said.
The DOL’s career centers have been closed since early in the pandemic, but the department says its services are available online.
For jobseekers who want in-person service, the Atlanta Regional Commission announced Thursday that its chain of job centers will reopen next week, although appointments will be needed. The ARC has centers in Cherokee, Clayton, Douglas, Fayette, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties.
- Woodgrain is expanding its manufacturing operations in Lee County, adding 150 jobs.
- Pregis, which makes packaging, will expand its Henry County factory and add about 80 jobs.
- InFlex, a subsidiary of Amcor, said it will expand its Bacon County manufacturing facility and add 100 jobs in Alma.
While the state has added more than 400,000 jobs since last spring, the economy is still 185,400 jobs shy of its pre-pandemic level. Both Gov. Brian Kemp and Butler argue that hiring will accelerate as cuts in benefits push those who are unemployed to accept available work.
Many argue that unemployment benefits aren’t the only reason that some Georgians are staying on the sideline. Some are having trouble finding jobs commensurate with their work experience and past jobs. A lot of the current openings are low-income positions. In addition, some families have children at home — at last until schools reopen in-person in August.
Whatever the reasons, finding workers has been tough, said John Foshee, chief revenue officer of Atlanta-based Porter Logistics, which operates a large distribution center. The company has roughly doubled in size to 45 employees since last fall and plans to double again in coming months.
“It is very hard to find people now,” he said. “We can’t get anybody on the fulfillment line for less than $17 or $18 an hour now, and we used to pay $12 to $14.”
Georgia weekly jobless claims
Highest, pre-pandemic: 41,522
Highest, pandemic: 390,132
Average, pre-pandemic: 5,548
Last week 20,749
Source: Georgia Department of Labor
Compared to April 2020: +424,100
Compared to Feb. 2020: -185,400
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics