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Initial unemployment claims drop sharply in Georgia
Georgia Department of Labor
The Georgia Department of Labor offers state residents the opportunity to apply for unemployment benefits when in need. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

ATLANTA – First-time unemployment claims in Georgia dropped significantly last week, echoing a national trend that has held for six weeks running.

Jobless Georgians filed 22,240 initial claims last week, down 2,382 from the previous week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The drop in claims came as the labor department was preparing to reimpose eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits the agency waived during the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting June 27, claimants must actively look for a job during each week they continue receiving benefits. They also must register with EmployGeorgia, the labor department’s reemployment system, which will ask them either to create a searchable resume or upload one to the site and submit three work-search contacts for each week they request benefits.

“States across the nation are reinstating work-search mandates as emergency rules are lifted and businesses reopen to the public,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday.

“We adjusted many of our regulations during the pandemic to make receiving benefits easier during the crisis, and now those modifications are no longer necessary.”

Since COVID-19 first hit Georgia in March of last year, the state has paid out more than $22 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits while processing nearly 4.9 million claims, more than during the decade prior to the pandemic.

With cases of the virus and resulting hospitalizations down across Georgia, the worst of the pandemic’s impact on the state’s economy appears to be in the past.

“We are not seeing the number of layoffs and temporary shutdowns we experienced last year,” Butler said. “But we will continue to monitor the job market and make any changes needed to help get Georgians back into the workplace.”

The resumption of work-search mandates will coincide with a cutoff of the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment checks jobless Georgians have been receiving.

Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered an end to those federal checks following complaints from businesses that they can’t find enough out-of-work Georgians willing to return to the workforce.

Critics of the order say the problem is not an unwillingness to work. Instead, they say many of the available jobs pay so little that the unemployed don’t want to take them.

More than 238,000 jobs are listed on EmployGeorgia. Claimants receive access to job listings, job search assistance, career counseling, skills testing, job fair information, job training and special accommodations for veterans and people with disabilities to transition back into the workplace.