Southwest Georgia posts record low unemployment rate

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ATLANTA – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), established under the March Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, has provided almost $1.7 billion in benefits to over 323,000 Georgians during the pandemic. PUA provides unemployment benefits to those who are not usually eligible for regular state benefits, but lose work, through no fault of their own, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many of these have included gig workers, independent contractors, employees of churches and nonprofits, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for regular state unemployment benefits.

For many of these recipients, self-employed and IRS Form 1099 workers in the state of Georgia, these benefits have already stopped or will be exhausting in the next few weeks after reaching the 39-week limit in accordance with federal program guidelines.

More than 25,000 PUA claimants could potentially exhaust benefits in the next two weeks, having received payments for the maximum 39 weeks. The CARES Act does not include any provisions for additional extended benefits beyond the 39 weeks of PUA. Federal extension programs are enacted by the U.S. Congress. The Georgia Department of Labor does not determine whether any extension programs will be enacted.

“The PUA program issued benefits to many in the self-employed community allowing these individuals to recoup a portion of the wages lost when their businesses had to shut down due to the pandemic,” Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. “Federal programs, like PUA and other disaster-related programs, are intended to temporarily provide support for those displaced during a crisis. Never before have we seen a federal program rolled out on a nationwide scale within such a demanding timeframe to so many people.”

Today, more than 168,000 jobs are listed online at EmployGeorgia for Georgians to access. These job opportunities have more than doubled since the April 2020 listing of just 73,000 jobs. The GDOL offers online resources for finding careers, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs. GDOL’s Business Services Unit hosts job fairs for businesses across Georgia and promotes employment positions regularly on EmployGeorgia.

Last Monday, the GDOL launched its pilot program for the agency’s online appointment scheduler. The scheduler, found on the agency’s website at https://dol.georgia.gov/appointment, allows claimants to request an appointment with a claims representative to ask questions regarding their claim. Each appointment is assigned a two-hour window in which a representative calls the claimant. The initial two weeks of appointment slots filled quickly after the scheduler launched, filling more than 2,800 appointments for the pilot period. More appointments will be added for the following week.

The sectors with the most weekly regular UI initial claims processed last week included accommodation and food services, with 7,869 claims; administrative and support services, with 4,194 claims; health care and social assistance, with 3,490 claims; retail trade, with 3,438 claims; and manufacturing, with 3,341 claims. Many claimants in the accommodation and food services division have utilized the $300 earnings exemption rule allowing workers to earn wages and still receive unemployment benefits. An individual can make up to $300 per week without reducing their maximum weekly benefit amount, allowing employees to work reduced hours and still qualify for state weekly benefits.

The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States for the week ending Oct. 31 was 751,000, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 758,000.

Resources for re-employment assistance along with information on filing an unemployment claim and details on how employers can file partial claims can be found on the agency’s webpage at dol.georgia.gov.

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