Ga., S.C. officials see silver lining amid gloomy jobless numbers

Published: Jun. 25, 2020 at 10:45 AM EDT
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Georgia and South Carolina continue to deal with record-setting unemployment numbers as fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, but officials say they’re seeing improvement.

“In the past few months, we have witnessed the lowest unemployment rate in history, the highest unemployment rate in history, the highest number of employed, and the highest number of unemployed,” Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday in a statement. “While also seeing the highest jobs total and the largest over-the-month job loss, I believe we are beginning to stabilize our economy.”

Here’s a look at the unemployment numbers each state released Thursday:


The Georgia Department of Labor has processed more than 2.7 million initial unemployment claims in the past 14 weeks, more than in the past seven years combined. 

Of the processed claims, more than 1 million were identified as valid claims with enough wages to establish a claim, and 91% have been issued a payment. 

Based on seasonally adjusted percentages, Georgia ranked first in the South and 15th nationally for the lowest unemployment rate of 9.7% for May 2020.  Further, Georgia ranked sixtth (out of eight) in the South and 30th (out of 53 – including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C.) in the nation with percentage change in employment of 1.9% from April to May.  Georgia ranked third in the South and 12th in the nation with a seasonally adjusted net job gain of 79,600 from April to May.  

The state announced job numbers for all of Georgia’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas and regions.  The unemployment rate was down and likewise employment numbers were higher in all metro areas and all regions.  

Weekly regular unemployment initial claims totaled 125,725, down 6,272 over the week ending June 20. Of the weekly total, 73,460 (59%) were employer filed claims. Initial claims have been trending down for the last eight weeks.  Over the past 14 weeks, 2,725,734 regular initial claims have been processed. From the week ending March 21 through the week ending Junbe 20, the sectors with the most regular initial claims processed included accommodation and food services, 677,982, health care and social assistance, 322,892, retail trade, 308,934, administrative and support services, 229,097, and manufacturing, 209,549.  

The agency said $6,912,337,130 in state and federal benefits have been paid to claimants across the state during the past 14 weeks. This includes payments in regular state unemployment benefits, Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation , Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

At this time, state 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 agency will open offices to the public as soon as social distancing can be effectively implemented to protect both employees and customers.

South Carolina

The South Carolina Department of Education and Workforce says it has paid out more than $2.5 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits since mid-March.

New numbers released Thursday show that in the week ending Saturday, a total of 17,098 filed initial unemployment claims, a decrease of 2,268 compared with the previous week. But despite the decrease, the total number of South Carolina workers who have filed their first claim for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic took hold has increased to 618,729.

Agency Executive Director Dan Ellzey said officials expect to keep seeing businesses calling laid-off employees back to work, even if at a slower rate than hoped for.

The initial claims do not include people who have filed multiple weekly claims over the past few months.

Greenville and Richland counties tied for first place in the number of new claims filed last week at 1,642. Charleston County was in third place at 1,242. Horry and Spartanburg counties rounded out the top five.

Agency spokesperson Heather Biance says the $2.5 billion figure represents payments of state unemployment benefit insurance, CARES Act programs, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

The FPUC program, which pays an additional $600 per week to unemployment insurance claimants, is set to expire on July 25, Ellzey said.

Biance says the agency’s call center hours run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. She says their busiest call volume days are Mondays and Tuesdays.

SCDEW encourages people who can wait to call between Wednesday and Saturday.

The call center’s number is 1-866-831-1724. The Call Center will be closed July 3 and July 4 in observance of Independence Day.

From reports by WRDW and WCSC

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