June 24, 2020 - The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced last Friday the May preliminary unemployment rate of 9.7 percent across the state, a decrease of 2.9 percent from April’s 12.6 percent as businesses began to open back up in May.
The number of employed was up 144,877 over April in Georgia. In the greater Savannah area, the initial claims in May was down from April, but only because the April number was a staggering 48,252 initial claims in Chatham County alone, in April. May initial claims was an additional 29,284 people in Chatham County. (See chart).
The U.S. Census puts Chatham County's population at 289,420, of which 78.8% is over 18 years of age, or 228,071 people. The total initial unemployment claims in Chatham in April and May equal 77,536 of that adult population. However, people who have two different jobs, and lost both, were able to file for unemployment twice.
Georgia’s labor force number of 4,900,139 reported for May was up 5,743 over April, but down 186,179 when compared to May 2019, despite a growth in the state’s projected population.
"I think we are going to continue to see big drops in the unemployment rate as Georgia continues to open back up," said Commissioner Mark Butler. "We have to remember that the recent unemployment was not caused by an economic catalyst, but instead by a medical emergency. Those jobs are still out there for the most part."
Jobs were up 79,600 over the month of April showing gains in Accommodation and Food Services (45,800), Health Care and Social Assistance (10,700), Non-Durable Goods Manufacturing (7,000), Administrative and Support Services (6,300), Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (4,600), and Wholesale Trade (4,500).
Although the over the month job growth increased, jobs are down 403,100 when compared to this same time last year, data that appears to contradict Butler’s statement that “jobs are still out there.”
The job total for May 2020 was 4,200,100.
There were 71,795 statewide job postings during the month of May. Top occupations included registered nurse (3,000), retail sales associate (2,000), tractor-trailer truck driver (2,000), software developer/engineer (2,000), and physician (2,000).
"I think as Georgia starts to reopen, we've got to really take a look at where the permanent job losses are going to be," said Commissioner Butler. "Through our strategic partnerships, we can help match those individuals who may have lost their job to the many job openings currently available, even if that takes some retraining."
As of last Friday, over 95,000 jobs are listed online at EmployGeorgia.com for Georgians to access. The GDOL offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs.
The GDOL also announced that $6,145,180,406 in state and federal benefits have been paid to claimants across the state during the past 13 weeks. This includes payments in regular state UI, Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).
Payments over last week totaled $147,670,769 in regular weekly unemployment benefits, down $9 million over the week. Since March 21, over $1.6 billion has been paid in regular state UI benefits. Over the last four weeks, benefit payment totals have ranged between $145 million to $160 million, and based upon preliminary data for week ending 6/20/2020, this trend will continue for a fifth week.
Initial claims were down 517,861 (-38%) over the month, but up 815,486 (3,964%) over this time last year, to reach a total of 836,060 in May. Of the total, 552,335 (66%) were employer filed claims.
Weekly regular state UI initial claims totaled 131,997 for the week ending June 6, down 3,257 over the previous week. Of the weekly total, 84,808 (64%) were employer filed claims. Initial claims have declined six of the last seven weeks.
"The decrease in regular weekly claims is indicative of a recovering workforce who are now ready to return to work," said Commissioner Butler. "We predict a continual decrease in these weekly claims as businesses return to pre-COVID conditions and Georgians increase their spending habits."
Last week, the GDOL issued over $56 million in PUA payments to individuals who are self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of non-profits, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits. From week ending 3/21/2020 through 6/13/2020, 188,022 PUA claims have been processed and are eligible for payment.
As of June 16, the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Balance was $1,293,107,612 down $1.254 billion, or 49 percent, from the March 24 balance of $2,547,476,454.
At this time, the GDOL career centers are remaining closed to the public. All online services are still available as the staff continues to answer phones, return emails, and assist applicants. The GDOL will open offices to the public as soon as social distancing can be effectively implemented to protect both staff and customers.
Information on filing an unemployment claim, details on how employers can file partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at dol.georgia.gov.