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Initial unemployment claims increase 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

By Dave William

Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – First-time unemployment claims rose significantly in Georgia last week, mirroring a national increase in joblessness.

Initial claims in Georgia were up 13,850 to 33,003, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

Since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic began forcing Georgia businesses to close and lay off employees, the state has paid out $16.3 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits to more than 4.1 million Georgians, exceeding the last nine years combined.

But the federal portion of those benefits is uncertain going forward unless Congress passes a new economic stimulus package. All federal unemployment benefits authorized last March through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act are due to expire the day after Christmas.

“There is no use speculating over what could potentially be passed by Congress,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday. “While Congress continues to deliberate over the future of these programs, we will focus on issuing payments to all eligible Georgians as the original CARES Act comes to a close.”

Claimants are encouraged to continue requesting benefits after the CARES program ends in case Congress passes a new stimulus initiative or extends the current benefits.

During the week ending Dec. 5, the job sector that accounted for the most initial unemployment claims in Georgia was accommodation and food services with 7,075 claims. The manufacturing sector was next with 6,376 claims, followed by administrative and support services with 3,370.

More than 166,000 jobs are currently listed on EmployGeorgia, with more than half advertising annual salaries of more than $40,000. The labor department offers online resources for finding career opportunities, building a resume and assisting with other reemployment needs.