What a difference a year makes.
First time unemployment claims filed by residents of the 15-county Northwest Georgia region in April were less than 10% of what they were in April a year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic sent more than 113,000 people scrambling for benefits.
The 15-county region covers Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray, Fannin, Pickens, Gilmer, Gordon, Chattooga, Floyd, Bartow, Polk, Paulding and Haralson counties.
The better news is that initial claims — those filed by someone who has not filed for benefits in the preceding 12 months — were down 12.4% from March to April.
Nonetheless, more than 9,300 residents of the region filed an initial jobless claim in April.
Floyd County residents submitted 1,218 claims during the month of April, a slight decline from the 1,260 claims filed in March.
Gordon County saw a 32.1% drop in first time claims during April. Those numbers dropped from 1,018 in March all the way down to 691 in April. Bartow County also saw a large decline, from 1,671 in March to 1,076 in April, a 35.6% drop.
Chattooga County residents filed 16.2% fewer initial claims in April than in March. However, in Polk County the number of new claims actually went up 7%, from 502 in March to 537 in April.
Some state lawmakers and labor leaders are calling for Gov. Brian Kemp to rescind his decision to end expanded unemployment compensation payments, arguing the move would hurt low wage workers.
Kemp announced last week that he would terminate the $300 weekly benefit on June 26, in part because of the belief that many Georgians have opted to remain at home while drawing the extra assistance when they are needed back in the workforce.
Labor Commissioner Mark Butler has echoed the governor’s concerns over attracting workers back into the market.
Butler said that his office has already doled out nearly $22 billion in benefits since the pandemic began.
Other critics of the state leadership have assailed Butler for the ongoing closure of Department of Labor offices while trying to nudge others back to work.