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Georgia sets low unemployment record despite pandemic

Georgia posted the strongest employment numbers last month since the coronavirus pandemic began more than a year and a half ago, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday. Unemployment fell to a record low of 3.2% in September, dipping below the 3.3% jobless rate posted in January of last year, shortly before COVID-19 struck Georgia. The number of employed Georgians rose above 5 million for the first time since the pandemic began, and the 161,786 listed as unemployed was at its lowest level since June 2001.

“This is excellent progress for Georgia,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday. “It shows that the state’s economy is rapidly recovering, and [the labor department’s] programs, along with other state policies, are working to get people back to work.” The number of jobs statewide rose 14,300 last month compared to August. As a result, the state has regained 521,000 of the 609,500 jobs lost during the early stages of the pandemic in March and April of last year. The job sector posting the most over-the-month job gains were retail trade, which gained 5,900 jobs in September. The number of wholesale trade jobs in Georgia was up by 2,100, and jobs in the transportation and warehousing sector increased by 1,800.

At the same time, accommodation and food services – the job sector hardest hit by the pandemic – is still down by 52,000 jobs.

“Our teams are proactively reaching out to unemployed jobseekers around the state to offer support services with finding a job, along with staff doing specialized recruitments,” Butler said.

First-time unemployment claims dropped substantially last month by 19,037 to 28,835. For the year, initial jobless claims are down 172,955, or 86%.

The labor department has 193,739 job openings posted on the Employ Georgia website, with a minimum of 308,106 unfilled positions.

“This is almost twice the number of available jobs than we have people currently looking for employment,” Butler said. “This is the main factor affecting job growth as employers across the state continue to struggle to fill vacant positions.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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