ATLANTA - New unemployment figures show Georgia’s recovery from the economic shock of the pandemic is slowing.
August saw the fewest number of new jobs added since the state’s labor market began bouncing back in May, with a large number of people dropping out the labor force. The slowing comes even as the state’s job market remains well short of where it was before COVID-19 caused many businesses to temporarily or permanently lay off workers.
The state’s unemployment rate fell in August fell to 5.6%. That’s down from 7.6% in July, but well above the 3.3% of August 2019. The number of unemployed Georgians fell by more than 100,000 to about 273,000. But the decrease in the number of jobless people and the jobless rate mainly stemmed from the labor force falling by nearly 90,000 people. Only an additional 20,000 people reported finding jobs.
The nationwide unemployment rate in August was 8.4%
A separate survey of employer payrolls — the top indicator for economists — also showed hiring was slowing. Businesses reported employing 4.43 million people in August, up about 22,000 from June. But that’s still well below the 4.63 million Georgians on payrolls in July 2019, and August saw the smallest payroll increase since figures began trending back up in May.
Another measure of weakness in the state’s labor market is the 565,000 people benefiting from a special $300-a-week payment to the unemployed. President Donald Trump announced the emergency federal payments last month after an additional $600 a week that was paid on top of other jobless benefits expired Aug. 1. Georgia has paid the first three weeks of what will be a total of six weeks, with the second three weeks supposed to go out in coming days. Georgia recipients got a total of $463.3 million in payments, with around 90% of recipients claiming all three weeks, meaning they had not returned to pre-layoff levels of pay by the third week of August.
About 42,000 Georgians filed for unemployment benefits last week, down about 8,000 from the week before. New claims have fallen steadily since peaking in early April. However, more than 500,000 people are still collecting regular state unemployment checks.
Georgia also has more than 250,000 people collecting special federal unemployment assistance available to people who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, or employees of churches and nonprofits.
Georgia collects unemployment taxes from businesses to fund its state benefits, but that piggy bank, which stood above $2.5 billion in March, has run dry. A U.S. Treasury Department website shows Georgia has borrowed $164 million from the Treasury, one of 15 states that have so far borrowed more than $30 billion.