Georgia jobless claims hold steady, while U.S. average drops

The number of Georgians filing for unemployment benefits last week was roughly the same as the week before.

The state processed 24,622 jobless claims. That’s well above pre-pandemic levels, when the number of weekly claims averaged less than 6,000.

Meanwhile, U.S. filings dropped dramatically.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said that the unemployment picture is better than it looks. Most of the current claims are not recent layoffs, but people refiling claims. Claimants automatically lose their benefits after a year unless they refile, according to state rules.

He joined Gov. Brian Kemp last month in announcing that, on June 26, the state will stop participating in a federal program that allows those who are unemployed to collect an extra $300 in benefits. Additionally, Georgia will stop taking part in another federal program that paid unemployed contract and gig workers, who normally are not eligible for state jobless benefits.

Kemp and Butler contend that the benefits are giving people an incentive to not work and cited many businesses that have said they are having trouble filling lower-paid positions.

In Georgia, the state’s jobs site lists more than 226,000 job openings, according to the Department of Labor.

Nationally, the total number of new jobless claims fell below 400,000 for the first time since March 2020.

The U.S. jobs report for May is due Friday morning.

Also on the national front, a study released May 28 by the office of the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Labor found that last year, even though the federal CARES Act had authorized emergency payments for those who lost jobs when the pandemic began, it took many weeks for most states to begin payments.

Georgia’s Department of Labor took four weeks to start making payments under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provided help to self-employed, gig workers and contracts. That tied for 15th best among the states, according to the report.

The report showed Georgia took 76 days — ranking 42 — to make payments under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that extended benefits by 13 weeks. The inspector general said Georgia had not supplied enough information to fully evaluate performance on that program.

The report blamed slow responses among many states on “antiquated IT systems, insufficient staffing and sometimes unclear guidance” from federal authorities

In a written statement, Butler said Georgia ranked second in the Southeast in processing benefits quickly, behind Mississippi, which was dealing with fewer claims. “We are focused on paying eligible claimants accurately and on time,” he said.

Georgia weekly jobless claims

Worst, pre-pandemic: 41,522 (Jan. 10, 2009)

Highest, pandemic: 390,132 (April 4, 2020)

Average, pre-pandemic: 5,548

Average, past four weeks: 26,862

Last week: 24,622


May jobless claims in Georgia

Week ending:

May 1: 25,429

May 8: 32,833

May 15: 25,441

May 22: 24,553

May 29: 24,622

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, U.S. Employment and Training Administration