More than 200,000 Georgians filed for jobless payments at April’s end

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

    Nearly 227,000 Georgians filed initial claims for unemployment last week, or about 40,000 workers fewer than the week before. Still, last week’s new jobless number would top the worst week in 2019 by far.

    While it’s good that the rate of layoffs has slowed, what matters is whether laid-off workers can find new jobs, said Kennesaw State University economics professor Roger Tutterow.

    “The fact of the numbers coming down does not mean that the labor markets are firming, it just means that all the initial filings associated with furloughs and layoffs are starting to moderate,” he said. “So when you look at the continuing claims, they’re still rising because very few people have come off the unemployment rolls in recent weeks, and additional ones are being added.”

    Another 3.1 million Americans filed for initial unemployment benefits as April ended, joining more than 33 million workers applying for benefits since mid-March, when fears of the novel coronavirus prompted many employers to slow operations.

    Continued jobless claims rose nationwide by 4.6 million to 22.6 million for the last full week in April. More than 883,000 Georgians filed continuing claims, an increase of 124,000 over the previous week.

    The Georgia Department of Labor has processed nearly 1.6 million initial unemployment claims since mid-March. The department said Thursday that it has issued over $1.7 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits in the past seven weeks, and 518,000 Georgians received their first payments.

    The federal government has expanded the types of workers eligible for benefits, now including gig workers, independent contractors and the self-employed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. 

    The reopening of some businesses in the state under new guidelines may be helpful for some jobseekers, but it’s not likely to improve significantly until fall at the earliest, Tutterow said.

    “As we in Georgia now are opening up or raising some of the government restrictions. You may see some businesses start to add back to payrolls again … hospitality, restaurants, personal services, some of those are starting to gradually come open again, but we probably will be well into the third quarter before we start to see jobs being added back in a meaningful way.”

    Ross Williams
    Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. 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. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.