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Georgia's unemployment rate nears pre-pandemic levels

FILE - Georgia Unemployment Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – Georgia’s unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia Department of Labor officials said this week.

The state’s unemployment rate in June was 4%; three times lower than what it was at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020. Georgia's unemployment rate was 3.1% in February 2020.

“We have gained back 76% of the jobs lost in the pandemic and currently have over 190,000 job listings that need to be filled,” Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. “We are working with employers across the state to fill those positions because if they continue to go unfilled, it will stall out new job creation.”

The unemployment rate in Georgia is below the nationwide average at 5.9%, and is better than more than half of the other states and the District of Columbia.

A report released Friday by personal finance website WalletHub showed Georgia is in the middle of the pack compared with other states, ranking 23rd in employment recovery.

As of June, 208,033 people were unemployed in Georgia. Initial unemployment claims dropped by 5,286 claims last week; the lowest weekly mark since March 21, 2020.

Officials said the labor force increased by 3,000 workers from May to June. The state saw record-high employment in June in the trade, transportation, utilities, warehousing, professional, scientific, technical, administrative and support and business services job sectors.

Labor officials attributed the employment increase to the state’s decision to stop supplemental federal unemployment benefits.

Butler and Gov. Brian Kemp announced their plans to end the federal programs in May. They also reinstated unemployment benefit requirements that were lifted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the end of an extra $100 to $300 in jobless benefits, workers applying for weekly unemployment payments had to restart actively seeking work and register for employment services.

Georgia Budget Policy Institute Analyst Ray Khalfani predicted the decision would affect more than 347,000 workers. Georgia’s unemployment fell by 0.1 percentage points over the month. About 5,000 workers were unemployed in May, officials said.

Eight of the 10 states whose unemployment rates bounced back the most in the WalletHub report have stopped supplemental federal unemployment benefits. In total, 26 states opted out of the federal aid at the end of June. WalletHub also ranked a dozen of those states among the top 20.

Nebraska, Utah and Idaho have bounced back the most, the report showed. Hawaii, Nevada and Connecticut have bounced back the least.

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