2-state joblessness remains at record, as Georgia sees 4 years worth of claims in 1 month

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

PHOTO: Unemployment claim form, Photo Date: April 2014 (Source: MGN Photo - Julie Chasen / MGN)

Unemployment remains sky-high for Georgia and South Carolina, with initial unemployment claims in Georgia at an all-time record as the one-month total surpassed filings in the past four years combined.

Both states on Thursday released figures on initial filings for unemployment benefits. Here’s a look at the information:


The Georgia Department of Labor announced an April preliminary unemployment rate of 11.9%. The number of unemployed people increased from 342,601 to 581,820. April’s numbers represent the highest one-month recorded increase and also the highest total unemployment on record. Georgia’s April 2020 number of unemployed is more than 80,000 higher than the height of the Great Recession of 2009-2010.

April showed a decrease of 624,126 employed residents over the month, bringing the total to 4,293,628, the lowest number of employed residents in eight and a half years. This number has decreased by 606,671 over the year.

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Georgia’s labor force in April was down by 281,525 to reach a total of 4.88 million, the lowest the labor force has been in over four years, while also reaching an all-time low in the labor force participation. This total decreased 209,140 from this time last year.

Jobs in Georgia were down by 492,100 over the month, the lowest number of jobs on record in six years. They were down 473,100 over the year, reaching a total of 4,126,500.

Unemployment claims showed an increase of 1.041 million claims or 333% in April to reach a total of 1.35 million claims. They were up by 1.33 million claims or 6,353% from April 2019. The monthly total was higher than the annual total for each of the previous four years combined, 291,962 in 2019, 310,494 in 2018, 325,597 in 2017, and 372,132 in 2016.

These sectors saw the highest increase in initial claims for unemployment:

• Accommodation and food services – more than 323,000
• Trade – more than 172,000
• Health care and social assistance – more than 151,000

South Carolina

For claim week ending May 16, the number of South Carolinians who filed their initial claim for unemployment insurance benefits was 29,446, a decrease of 3,067 initial claims from the week prior.

This means that there were 29,446 individuals, who both live and work in the state of South Carolina, filed an initial claim during the claim week, May 10-16.

Although the week-to-week figures for initial filings showed a decrease, the unemployment rate in the state is off the charts, with officials saying a couple of weeks ago that it was at a record high like Georgia.

“Throughout the duration of this crisis, our priority is processing claims and backdating payments appropriately. We want to reassure all claimants that if and when they are found eligible, critical payments will be paid to them. Since the pandemic began in March of this year, we have received 515,595 initial claims for unemployment and paid out more than $1.35 billion dollars. Additionally, we are close to launching our third and final federal program, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which will be available to South Carolinians who exhaust their 20 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits and are still unemployed,” said Dan Ellzey, executive director of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.

“We are prepared to help both employers and claimants navigate the unemployment system during and as they transition back to work. These are trying times and it will take an all-hands-on-deck approach from every single resident to reboot our state’s economy.”

From March 15 to May 19, the agency has paid more than $1.35 billion in state and federal benefits. Its call center staff is consistently answering more than 80,000 phone calls each week.


The Georgia and South Carolina figures were reported as the federal government said Thursday that more than 2.4 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week in the latest wave of layoffs from the viral outbreak that triggered widespread business shutdowns.

Roughly 38.6 million people have now filed for jobless aid since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said Thursday.

MORE | Agencies across the two-state battle backlog of unemployment claims

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