For The Record

Georgia’s April unemployment hits historically painful high of near 12%

By: - May 21, 2020 10:55 am

Georgia suffered record-breaking unemployment levels in April as more than 624,000 people reported losing their jobs. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

This post was updated at 12:10 p.m. on May 21 to reflect new unemployment benefit numbers from the Georgia Department of Labor.

More Georgians requested unemployment assistance in April than the past four years combined, as the state’s workers suffered more depressing job losses than any month during the Great Recession.

More than 624,000 people reported losing their jobs last month, bringing Georgia’s unemployment rate to 11.9%, up from 7.3% in March, according to the state labor department.

“This is the highest unemployment rate on record, eclipsing the previous high of 10.6 percent that occurred in December 2010,” said Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler in a statement.

“However, the cause of this high unemployment rate differs greatly from that of the previous record, and I have no doubt that we will recover just as quickly and get back to our record lows once again.”

April’s initial jobless claims were more than 6,000% higher than in April 2019.

The number of jobs available also fell sharply, by nearly 500,000, creating the worst job market in six years.

Hospitality and food service workers are hurting the most, with people in those businesses filing more than 323,000 new jobless claims in April. 

The Georgia Department of Labor has issued over $3.1 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits to 651,000 Georgians, but many say their claims haven’t been processed.

Annietha Patterson of Jonesboro was let go from her job as an import specialist at Tigers USA in March. She said she applied for unemployment insurance immediately, but she has yet to see a payment. She said the labor department told her there is a hold on her account and countless calls and emails haven’t shaken her payments loose.

“I filed in March, and calls and emails went unanswered,” she said. “I spoke with this wonderful lady, but she could only send my original email on my behalf. I need someone to do their job, one more step or click to move the darn hold, they have all the needed information.”

Meanwhile, her mortgage and bills are past due, and she can’t afford to buy her blood pressure medicine because she lost her insurance along with her job. She said she’s had to ask for loans from friends to keep going.

“It’s very hard,” she said. “I am very independent and a single mom of three. Normally I wouldn’t ask.”

The U.S. Department of Labor also said Thursday 2.4 million Americans filed new unemployment claims in the week ending May 16, bringing the seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate to 17.2% – nearly a fifth of the workforce.

Georgians account for more than 176,000 of those initial claims, a decrease of 66,000 from the week before.

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting.