Jobless numbers look better in Georgia and U.S., but South Carolina sees a jump in claims

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 10:48 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 12, 2021 at 2:17 PM EST
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ATLANTA - Georgia’s jobless rate continued to drift down slowly in January, posting the ninth straight fall in the unemployment rate.

The state’s unemployment rate was 5.1% in January, down from 5.3% in December.

That’s still substantially above the 3.3% posted last January, but well below the state’s all-time high of 12.5% posted last April.

A separate survey of employer payrolls _ the top indicator for economists _ showed little movement.

Payrolls were flat from December to January at 4.45 million. The Georgia Department of Labor released the job figures Thursday.

Georgia workers continue to file for unemployment at elevated levels.

More than 28,000 workers made initial filings for benefits during the week of Feb. 27.

Some Georgians continue to complain of problems receiving their benefits, leading Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff as well as other members of the state’s congressional delegation to intervene.

On Thursday, the Democratic senators joined Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux, Sanford Bishop, David Scott, Hank Johnson, Lucy McBath and Nikema Williams in calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate why it is taking so long for Georgia families to receive benefits.

Last month, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported roughly 180,000 Georgians were still waiting on their applications to be reviewed, and the 400,000 currently receiving benefits experienced months of delays and frustration.

The problems recently led some Georgia state lawmakers to file a bill to strip the state’s elected labor commissioner, Mark Butler, of much of his authority.

South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce said more than 5,000 people filed their first claim for unemployment benefits in the week ending Saturday.

The agency said it received 5,146 initial claims, a 26% jump over the previous week.

For the week ending Saturday, the state paid out nearly $74 million in state and federal benefits.

In the full year since the pandemic began, South Carolina has paid out almost $5.5 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits.

United States

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 712,000, the lowest total since early November, evidence that fewer employers are cutting jobs amid a decline in confirmed coronavirus cases and signs of an improving economy.

The Labor Department said applications for unemployment aid dropped by 42,000 from 754,000 the week before. Though the job market has been slowly strengthening, many businesses remain under pressure, and 9.6 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic that flattened the economy 12 months ago.

In February, U.S. employers added a robust 379,000 jobs, the most since October, reflecting an economy in which consumers are spending more and states and cities are easing business restrictions. Thursday’s figure, though the lowest weekly figure in four months, showed that weekly applications for jobless benefits still remain high by historical standards: Before the viral outbreak, they had never topped 700,000, even during the Great Recession.

All told, 4.1 million Americans are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits. Counting supplemental federal unemployment programs that were established to soften the economic damage from the virus, an estimated 20.1 million people are collecting some form of jobless aid.

The continuing job cuts reflect the extent to which the pandemic disrupted normal economic activity and kept consumers hunkered down at home rather than out traveling, shopping, dining out and attending entertainment venues. Cities and states restricted the hours and capacity of restaurants, bars and other businesses. Even where restrictions didn’t exist, many Americans for months chose to stay home to avoid the risk of infection.

Now, though, as vaccinations are increasingly administered around the country, business limitations are gradually eased and consumers grow more comfortable engaging face to face with others, optimism about the economy is rising. Last month, consumers bounced back from months of retrenchment to step up their spending by 2.4% — the sharpest increase in seven months and a sign that the economy may be poised to sustain a recovery.

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