Data mining through the monthly reports from the Georgia Department of Labor show that slightly more than one in five people in the local labor force have received first-time unemployment assistance this year.

And, like the regular first-time claims and monthly unemployment numbers, some of the data found deeper inside the reports paints a dismal picture.

Rome Floyd Chamber President Jeanne Krueger said the workforce crisis related to COVID-19 seems to be easing up somewhat but it’s not where she would like it to be.

“We’re still concerned about those numbers,” Krueger said. “We see a lot of jobs being put on our jobs page from small (companies) up to large, but at the same time when we hear these numbers it is a bit staggering.”

People in the Floyd County workforce have received 9,187 first-time benefit checks through the end of July. The number of initial payments made in all of calendar year 2019 was just 2,225.

A first-time check is one that has been issued to someone who had not sought unemployment assistance in the previous 12 months. The labor force is defined as a county resident, regardless of if their job is within their county of residence.

The Department of Labor has paid out more than $8.2 million in unemployment benefits to Floyd County residents through the first seven months of the year. That compares to just $2.7 million for all 12 months in 2019 — a 204% increase with five months still on the calendar.

Metro Atlanta Chamber Chief Economist Tom Cunningham spoke via Zoom to the Rome chamber’s Small Business Action Council on Tuesday.

He said there is evidence that a lot of people who have been furloughed or laid off have been going back to school. A lot of them are going to the technical schools for retraining in a bid to get a better job.

For instance, Cunningham cited truck driving as one of those blue collar jobs that are still in high demand and offer good wages.

Across the entire 15-county Northwest Georgia region, 13 counties have already seen residents pile up over a million dollars in unemployment benefits through the first seven months of the year. Dade and Chattooga counties are the only counties in the region that have not crossed the million-dollar threshold yet.

Last year, eight counties did not receive a million dollars in jobless benefits during the entire year.

Workers across the region have received more than $68.5 million in unemployment compensation through July compared to $20.6 million for the entirety of 2019.

The average weekly benefit check from the state alone, during the month of July, ranged from a low of $203 a week for residents of Haralson County to $248 per week for residents of Dade County. Floyd County residents received an average weekly benefit of $206 in July.

It is not clear from available data how many of those unemployed residents also received the $600 a week benefit from the federal government, which expired at the end of July.

The boost was earmarked for those who could show their job loss was directly related to the pandemic.

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