Georgia layoffs edge down, but remain high

The number of Georgians filing unemployment claims edged down last week, but remains about five times as high as before the pandemic.

About 27,000 initial claims for jobless benefits were processed in the week ending Jan. 30. That is the lowest weekly number in the past month and far below stratospheric levels reached during the pandemic-triggered economic shutdowns last spring, according to the state Department of Labor.

However, in the year before the pandemic, weekly claims averaged 5,548.

About 1.7 million Georgians have received unemployment payments at some point since March, according to state Department of Labor spokeswoman Kersha Cartwright.

With COVID-19 still uncontrolled and vaccines still rolling out, consumer fears continue to hamper businesses that rely on in-person customers or close-quarters work. The result is an economy that is still not hitting on all cylinders.

Despite eight consecutive months of growth, the economy is still 93,200 jobs shy of its pre-pandemic level.

Job growth has been consistent among tech jobs and other professional roles that can done from home. Hiring has also been strong in warehousing, logistics and trucking thanks to an unprecedented surge in online shopping.

Georgia also continues to be a desired location for some international manufacturers, especially those who are part of the region’s auto supply chain.

This week, Korean-based KB Autosys announced plans to add 180 jobs in Meriwether County, between Atlanta and Columbus.

But the economy historically depends on small businesses for much of its growth. In a pre-pandemic survey, the Census Bureau found that more than 546,000 jobs in Georgia — more than one of every eight — was with a company of 20 employees or fewer.

And despite the COVID-19 handicap, many small companies are finding ways to cope, while positioning themselves for a post-pandemic world.

Exercise Coach, a franchise chain of fitness studios, opened in Alpharetta Wednesday with two full-time and two part-time employees. A Marietta location is set to open next week with two full-time and one part-time employee.

Nationally, about 779,000 people applied for regular state jobless benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Weekly jobless claims, Georgia

Week ending

Dec. 26: 18,960

Jan. 2: 31,458

Jan. 9: 37,039

Jan. 16: 35,912

Jan. 23: 28,016

Jan. 30: 27,215

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

Comparative jobless claims, Georgia

Worst, pre-pandemic: 41,522 (Jan. 10, 2010)

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

Average, pre-pandemic: 5,548

Average, last four weeks: 32,046

Last week: 27,215

Total since Mar. 21: 4,351,478

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