First time claims for unemployment aid filled by Floyd County workers soared over the 12,000 mark in April, according to a report released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor.

Add the April numbers with those filed in March and more than 16,300 Floyd County workers have filed a first time claim for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

A first time claim is an application submitted for a person who hasn’t received unemployment assistance in the preceding 12 months.

Across the 15-county Northwest Georgia Regional Commission area — Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Gordon, Chattooga, Floyd, Bartow, Paulding, Polk and Haralson counties — there were 113,166 first time claims filed in April. That was up from 23,682 in March.

A year ago, in April of 2019, only 3,128 first time claims were filed.

Aside from the Atlanta Regional Commission area, which reported more than 690,000 claims in April, the Northwest Georgia region was easily the hardest hit in the state. The Coastal Regional Commission area was next in line, with more than 95,100 initial claims filed in April.

The claims data reflects where the people live, although they may have worked in a different county.

While the numbers are staggering, Rome Floyd Chamber President Jeanne Krueger said she is encouraged by the number of employers who are starting to bring people back to work.

“We know that they are taking extra precautions and following protocols, so in some cases the reopening is a process and a little bit slower,” Krueger said.

Part of the challenge for many employers involves supply chain issues. A company in Rome might not be able to get things going again until a company they supply in another state gets restarted.

“So many are dependent on what is happening globally,” Krueger said. “(But) we are seeing an uptick in postings to our jobs page, so we think that’s a good sign.”

Whitfield County reported 21,259 first time claims in April; Bartow workers filed 16,521; Gordon County reported 8,697 initial claims; Walker County 6,311; Polk County showed 4,735; and Chattooga County had 709.

Georgia’s unemployment rate zoomed to a new all-time high of 11.9% in April, the state DOL reported Thursday. That was up by 7.3% from March and easily topped the previous record of 10.6% in December 2010.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said he is optimistic the unemployment rate will fall relatively quickly since the numbers are tied to the coronavirus and some companies are already getting back to work.

More detailed county-by-county unemployment numbers will be released May 28.

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