Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped last month to 4.5%, about a percent higher than last March’s pre-pandemic rate of 3.6%, but much lower than last April’s jobless peak of 12.5%
At the same time, the Georgia Department of Labor’s website, EmployGeorgia.com, includes about 223,000 listings, over half of which advertise annual salaries higher than $40,000, said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.
“March is yet another month where we have seen job growth throughout the state,” Butler said. “EmployGeorgia is showing triple the amount of job listings that we were seeing at the start of pandemic. Georgia has gained a vast majority of the jobs that were lost since March of last year, and we continue to remain strong in economic growth and business development.”
The past 12 months have brought about an unprecedented test on Georgia’s unemployment benefits system.
Between March and the end of October, Georgians filed more unemployment claims each week than they did during the worst week of the Great Recession, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
The Georgia Department of Labor has paid nearly $20.6 billion in state and federal benefits since the beginning of the pandemic, including $236 million in benefits issued last week.
But some say they are still not getting the help they need.
Jarmano Moore of Atlanta was a manager at a company that provided catering for airlines. Food service and travel were among the first industries to be hit by the COVID-19 jobless crisis, and Moore was out of work by the end of March. Over a year later, accommodations and food service jobs make up the highest portion of weekly unemployment claims in the state.
Moore applied for unemployment benefits immediately, but receiving those benefits has not been easy.
“I had to wait maybe about a month, it started coming in, and then it would stop, then it will start back, then it will stop, then it will start back,” he said. “I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. For some reason I got one check three weeks ago, just out the blue, it came into my account for $186, and now it stopped again.”
Moore said he went from living on a salary of about $50,000 to sporadic payments of $186 per week.
Moore said he has called and emailed the state labor department incessantly, but he has been unable to connect with anyone who can explain why he is not getting regular checks.
He’s been looking for work, but he hasn’t been able to find anything with a salary comparable to what he made before the pandemic.
“Life has changed,” he said. “We’ve lost a car, we’re down to one car. My brothers and my sisters, we all just help each other. When I need something, I call my mom, and everybody’s struggling, but as a family, we’re trying to help each other. But this is the hardest I’ve ever struggled in my life.”
A spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Labor said she would look into Moore’s complaint, but did not respond in time for publication.
Nationwide, the number of Americans filing first-time unemployment claims fell to its lowest level since the pandemic began with about 576,000 Americans filing their first claim, down from 769,000 the week before.