Jobless claims fall to lowest level since December

Cracker Barrel will hold job fairs in Gwinnett and Cobb counties on Friday, hoping to hire more than 700 workers. (Courtesy of Cracker Barrel)
Cracker Barrel will hold job fairs in Gwinnett and Cobb counties on Friday, hoping to hire more than 700 workers. (Courtesy of Cracker Barrel)

The number of weekly jobless claims in Georgia has dipped below 20,000 for the first time since Christmas, the Department of Labor said Thursday.

Most of those filing claims for unemployment benefits weren’t from people who were laid off, officials said. They largely came from people who quit their jobs or were fired.

“We are not seeing many simple layoff claims at this time,” said Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner.

Less than 10% of the 19,761 claims processed by the state last week were because of layoffs, the department said.

At the height of the pandemic-triggered shutdowns last year, layoffs accounted for nearly half of all claims.

Among the recent layoffs, Aramark cut 165 jobs in Atlanta; Snyder’s-Lance cut 294 in Columbus; and BAE Systems trimmed 65 jobs at Fort Gordon.

On the hiring side, Macy’s is looking for more than 1,000 full- and part-time employees in Georgia to work at stores, offices and distribution centers.

Purple Innovation is expanding its McDonough operations to add 500 jobs; and Antonline, an online reseller of gaming technology, is hiring about 50 people for a variety of positions at its warehouse and office space in Acworth.

Over the past several months, many businesses have complained that they can’t find workers. In response, Gov. Brian Kemp decided to stop participating in federal programs that allowed many unemployed Georgians to collect federal unemployment subsidies.

That decision didn’t affect Jon Wan — he never received any unemployment benefits.

Wan, 36, of Clarkesville, worked as a musician and part-time radio producer. He lost his income as the pandemic took hold. He filed for the federal program that included gig workers.

“I thought, well, that’s custom-made for me,” he said.

But many months passed before he heard from the Department of Labor, he said. Recently, he finally got a call from a staffer.

“She said I’d never applied. But I know for a fact that I did,” Wan said.

He and his girlfriend have been able to pay their bills, but he is still frustrated, he said. “I don’t get angry very often, but I feel like it’s not fair when I see some people in the same situation as me and they have no problem.”

Georgia weekly jobless claims

Last week: 19,761

Average, June 2021: 21,553

Average, January 2021: 31,928

Average, year before pandemic: 5,548

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

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

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration