First time claims for unemployment assistance continue to decline across Northwest Georgia but remain at unprecedented levels.

The Georgia Department of Labor reports that 4,928 first time claims were filed by Floyd County residents in June, up 1,672% from June a year ago. However, it’s down 32% from the 7,309 claims filed in May, which was itself a decrease from the 12,549 claims filed in April.

Across the 15-county Northwest Georgia region, 40,376 initial claims were filed in June. That’s down 36% from May, but still dramatically up from June a year ago when just 1,595 residents of the region sought first-time unemployment benefits.

The region covers Dade, Catoosa, Whitfield, Walker, Murray, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Gordon, Chattooga, Bartow, Floyd, Polk, Paulding and Haralson counties

A first time claim is one filed by someone who has not sought unemployment assistance in the preceding 12 months.

Georgia has paid over $8.5 billion in unemployment benefits statewide since the middle of March.

“No one would have imagined in the same year we experienced our lowest monthly number of claims since 1975 that we would pay almost three years’ worth of benefits in one week.” said Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler in a press release.

The statewide unemployment rate checked in at 7.6% for June, down from 9.4% in May. Butler said that June was the first month to show positive data in all of the key indicators since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

County-by-county jobless rates will be released July 23.

The pandemic’s impact on local businesses continues to be felt. Harper Home Design, at 424 Broad St., is one of the latest victims.

Co-owner Jessica Harper posted on Facebook that it will be closing “soon.”

“Matt and I had to make this decision to do what is best for our family, and unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on our business and livelihood,” she wrote.

The Starbucks at 795 Turner McCall Blvd. also has closed for the foreseeable future, according to a sign on the front door. USA Today reported that the coffee chain is struggling with changing consumer behavior related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is not clear at this point if COVID-19 had anything to do with the closure of CiCi’s Pizza in West Rome.

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