Georgia jobless rate falls to 4.3% in 12th straight decline

Arnashia McCain uses her phone to copy phone numbers posted on the locked doors of a Georgia Department of Labor office last May.
Arnashia McCain uses her phone to copy phone numbers posted on the locked doors of a Georgia Department of Labor office last May. (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ATLANTA – What a difference a year makes for Georgia’s unemployment rates.

In April 2020, amid a huge wave of pandemic-induced layoffs, the state was hitting an all-time high jobless rate of 12.5%. In April 2021, the state’s unemployment rate fell for the 12th straight month, dipping to 4.3% from 4.5% in March.

The nationwide unemployment rate in April was 6.1%.

More Georgians sought and found jobs in April, pushing the number of unemployed people down to about 221,000. The labor force is now less than 1% below where it was before the pandemic.

The news was not as good for employer payrolls, though. This separate survey, considered the top indicator by economists, saw jobs dip by 9,000 from March to April, falling to about 4.5 million in Georgia. The two surveys usually move in the same direction over the long term, but can point in different directions from month to month.

Payrolls are nearly 200,000 jobs, or about 4%, below their pre-pandemic levels.

The Georgia Department of Labor released the job figures Thursday.

Georgia workers continue to file for unemployment at elevated levels. More than 25,000 workers made initial filings for benefits during the week ended May 15, a level about twice the weekly average before the pandemic began.

About 117,000 people are still collecting regular state unemployment, while 125,000 people are collecting special federal unemployment assistance available to people who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, or employees of churches and nonprofits. Another 105,000 are getting a another 13 weeks of benefits paid from federal money after the regular 26 weeks run out.

Georgia is cutting off those federal programs, plus the $300-a-week boost to people on jobless rolls, as of June 26. Gov. Brian Kemp and Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced the decision last week, saying employers are demanding that the state do more to force people into the workforce.