Georgia jobless rate falls to 4.1% in 13th straight decline

Georgia’s jobless rate continued to fall in May, dropping closer to where it was before the pandemic sent it soaring to an all-time high.

The state’s unemployment rate was 4.1% in May, down from 4.3% in April. That’s still above the 3.6% posted in March 2020, but well below the state’s record high of 12.5% recorded in April 2020, when many businesses shut down as the coronavirus spread.

Fewer people sought jobs in May, but the number of unemployed people fell to about 212,000, because the number of people reporting they have jobs fell more slowly. The labor force remains less than 1% below where it was before the pandemic.

The news was better for employer payrolls. This separate survey, considered the top indicator by economists, saw jobs rise by about 14,000 from April to May, with Georgia payrolls nearing 4.5 million. The unemployment and payroll surveys usually move in the same direction over the long term, but can point in different directions from month to month.

Payrolls remain 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 22,000 workers made initial filings for benefits during the week ended June 12.

About 130,000 people are still collecting regular state unemployment, while 104,000 people are collecting special federal unemployment assistance available to people who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, or employees of churches and nonprofits. As of last week, another 100,000 or so were getting another 13 weeks of benefits paid from federal money that is paid out 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 say employers are demanding the state do more to force people into the workforce.