Layoffs high, but fall below Great Recession’s peak

Warehouses are hiring, but it hasn't made up for the cutbacks in other sectors, especially hospitality. Here the inside of a 1.1 million-square-foot, Home Depot distribution center in Locust Grove.
Warehouses are hiring, but it hasn't made up for the cutbacks in other sectors, especially hospitality. Here the inside of a 1.1 million-square-foot, Home Depot distribution center in Locust Grove.

The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits remains high, but fell below 40,000 for the first time since pandemic layoffs ramped up in late March.

The state processed 37,253 applications last week, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. Though that’s more than six times as high as the pre-pandemic average, it’s far lower than it was.

For 31 consecutive weeks, jobless claims were higher than the Great Recession peak of 41,522, which came in early 2009. The number reached 390,132 in the spring.

Since mid-March, more than 4 million claims have been processed in the state, about 1.8 million of them judged to be valid, according to the DOL.

The sectors with the most layoffs last week was hospitality, followed by support services, health care, retail and manufacturing.

“I tell job seekers that they need to focus on the right industry," said Allison O’Kelly, chief executive of Corps Team, an Atlanta-based staffing company. "Don’t think, ‘Oh, I used to go to the mall and get a job in a clothing shop.’ Maybe you should work at UPS or do delivery or work at a grocery store.”

Nationally, about 1.1 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week. That includes 363,000 who applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program that provides up to 39 weeks of benefits for gig and self-employed workers who are not eligible for state benefits. In Georgia, about 323,000 people have received that aid, according to Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner.

In exit polls during this week’s election, about one in three voters ranked the economy as their highest priority, second only to the pandemic as a concern.

The two are deeply entwined. It was the shutdowns aimed at controlling the virus that tossed tens of millions of Americans out of work in the spring and sent unemployment rates into double-digits. And economists say ongoing anxiety about COVID-19 continues to be a drag on recovery.

In Georgia, the most recent government data shows 190,700 fewer jobs than in February, about 4% of the total.

Even after a modest comeback over the summer, the hospitality sector has 66,600 fewer jobs than in February – shrinking 14%.

Jobless claims snapshot, since March:

Regular claims processed: 4,006,771

Claims processed for gig and self-employed: 341,456

Claims judged valid: 1,841,159

Source: Georgia Department of Labor

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Weekly new jobless claims, Georgia

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

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

Average, during year preceding the pandemic: 5,548

Average, past four weeks: 45,002

Most recent: 37,253 (Oct. 31)

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

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Georgia jobs since February

Total jobs: down 190,700

Leisure and hospitality: down 66,600

Manufacturing: down 17,400

Professional services: down 18,700

Construction: up 500

Warehousing, transportation: up 2,500

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Past 10 weeks of new jobless claims in Georgia

Week ending

Aug. 29: 51,283

Sept. 5: 50,320

Sept. 12: 42,085

Sept. 19: 49,421

Sept. 26: 43,526

Oct. 3: 44,874

Oct: 10: 54,166

Oct: 17: 44,892

Oct. 24: 43,695

Oct. 31: 37,253

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

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