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Initial unemployment claims in Georgia fall as jobless face loss of federal benefits
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

First-time unemployment claims in Georgia fell last week even as the state Department of Labor warned recipients that the federal portion of their benefits is about to run out.

Jobless Georgians filed 19,183 initial claims with the labor department last week, down 9,905 from the previous week. The decline occurred after an increase in claims the week before that ran counter to a weeks-long downward trend.

Meanwhile, unemployment benefits distributed through several federal programs created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act last March are due to expire during the week ending Dec. 26 for claims filed by individual Georgians and on Dec. 30 for employer-filed claims.

“We will continue to process and adjudicate all of the claims we receive, paying all eligible benefits as quickly as possible,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday. “Congress will decide if a new program will be implemented or extensions will be put in place.”

Pressure is building on Congress to enact a new economic stimulus package before the holidays to replace the CARES Act, but the outcome of the current negotiations is far from certain.

The labor department is encouraging claimants of federal unemployment benefits to continue requesting the payments after the programs expire in case Congress either passes new legislation or extends the current programs.

Since last March 21, when the coronavirus pandemic began to hit Georgia’s economy hard, the labor department has paid out more than $16 billion in unemployment benefits to almost 4.1 million Georgia claimants, more than the last nine years combined.

During the last week alone, the agency paid out $120 million in state and federal benefits.

The job sector accounting for the largest share of initial unemployment claims last week by far was accommodation and food services with 5,716 claims. The administrative and support services sector was next with 2,059 claims, followed by manufacturing with 1.853.

More than 164,000 job openings are currently listed on EmployGeorgia. The labor department offers online resources for finding career opportunities, building a resume and assisting with other reemployment needs.