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Employment on mend here, but payout from pandemic still stunning

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 9:57 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2021 at 11:10 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - In the past 16 months, the Georgia Department of Labor has processed more unemployment initial claims than in the previous 10 years combined.

The agency said that from March 21, 2020, to July 31 this year, it had handled more than 5 million claims.

Last week, regular unemployment benefit initial claims totaled 13,406, up 1,421 over the previous week.

The agency has paid almost $23 billion in state and federal benefits in the past 72 weeks. Last week, the agency issued almost $24 million in combined state and federal benefits.

Across the river in South Carolina

South Carolina employment officials released new data on weekly initial unemployment claims showing the lowest total received since before March 2020.

For the week ending Saturday, the state received 1,341 first-time unemployment claims. That marks the fourth consecutive drop in weekly claims and only the second time since the start of the pandemic that the total dipped below 1,500, according to data released by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.

Greenville County had the highest total with 136 claims, followed by Richland County’s 118 and Spartanburg County’s 106.

For the week ending Saturday, the state paid out $6.95 million in state and federal benefits, the data showed.

Since the pandemic began, the state has paid out a total of more than $6.5 billion.

The national picture

Hiring surged in July as American employers added 943,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent, another sign that the U.S. economy continues to bounce back with surprising vigor from last year’s coronavirus shutdown.

The July numbers exceeded economists’ forecast for more than 860,000 new jobs. Hotels and restaurants, reopening and doing brisk business, added 327,000 jobs last month. Local public schools added 221,000.

The number of people who reported they had jobs surged by 1 million, pushing the jobless rate down from 5.9 percent in June. Last month, 261,000 people returned to the job market.

Scrambling to find workers as business surges back, companies raised wages: Average hourly earnings were up 4 percent last month from a year earlier.

“Things are undeniably moving in the right direction,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

From reports by WRDW/WAGT, WCSC and The Associated Press