ATLANTA — First-time unemployment claims in Georgia increased last week, but state labor officials expect the trend to be short-lived.

Jobless Georgians filed 22,524 claims last week, up 284 from the previous week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The Georgia numbers mirrored an unexpected rise in unemployment claims nationally, the first in six weeks.

The slight increase in claims in Georgia came even as the labor department reported another drop in the state’s unemployment rate in May, down 0.2% from April to 4.1%.

But the number of jobless claims is expected to fall significantly after June 26, when the state stops paying out $300 weekly supplemental federal unemployment benefits Georgians have been receiving this year.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced the move after businesses complained they were having trouble finding workers. Business groups said many potential employees were receiving more in unemployment benefits than they could earn by going back to work.

Indeed, Georgia’s labor force declined by 12,478 in May to 5.16 million.

“We have a serious workforce issue reflected in the monthly drop in the labor force,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday. “We are looking to reemploy Georgians as a critical component for our economic recovery.”

The state has paid out more than $22 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits since the coronavirus pandemic began in March of last year. During that time, the labor department has processed nearly 4.9 million initial unemployment claims, more than during the 10 years prior to the pandemic.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic-driven recession, the accommodation and food services job sector has been hit hardest by layoffs.

More than 233,000 job listings are posted at the labor department’s Employ Georgia website, more than triple the number of listings in April of last year. Nearly three-fourths of the available jobs pay more than $30,000 a year, which translates to nearly $15 an hour.

In many cases, employers have offered to train quality candidates and help them get additional credentials.

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