ATLANTA – Nearly 250,000 Georgians filed initial unemployment claims last week as the coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-in-place order continued to shut down businesses across the state, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.
While marking a decline from the almost 320,000 who filed for unemployment the previous week, that brought the number of claims for the past month up to almost 1.1 million, more than the combined total for the last three years.
Of the 247,003 initial unemployment claims filed last week, 94% were submitted by employers.
“Employer-filed claims have proven to be beneficial not only for employers wishing to provide financial support for employees until they can get them back to work, but also employees who are able to work a few hours a week and still recover state and federal benefits,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday. “Despite claims to the contrary, returning to work does not automatically eliminate an individual’s state unemployment eligibility.”
Butler explained that Georgians can earn up to $300 per week without reducing their weekly benefit amount, under an emergency rule issued late last month. Employees also can still receive the federal supplement of $600 each week while working reduced hours.
“We are working very diligently to come up with solutions to get Georgians back to work as soon as it is safe to do so,” Butler said. “Although some people are returning to work, the [labor department] will continue to process and make payments for all weeks an individual was eligible for benefits.”
The accommodations and food services sector accounted by far for the most initial unemployment claims last week, with 67,774 out-of-work Georgians in those industries submitting claims. Health care and social assistance was next with 31,266 claims, followed by retail trade with 30,672, and manufacturing with 28,597.
The agency issued $101.4 million in regular state unemployment benefits last week, up $32 million over the previous week. The $309 million the state has paid out so far this year is already more than the annual total for each of the previous two years.