Number of new unemployment claims in Georgia down week-to-week for 1st time

New data just released by the Georgia Department of Labor shows for the first time that the number of new unemployment claims actually went down last week.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray has been following these numbers over the last seven weeks. The Georgia Department of Labor said 228,352 new claims were filed last week. That’s equivalent to about half of the population of the city of Atlanta filing claims in just one week.

[Here’s how to file for unemployment if your job has been affected by coronavirus]

That’s down 38,000 from the week prior. The total number of claims in Georgia since the crisis began is now at 1.6 million -- about 30 percent of the state workforce.

Gray spoke with Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, who said for the first time there have been a few positive signs.

“We are seeing signs where we weren’t seeing those as recently as a week ago. That the activity on the reemployment side is picking up and we are seeing signs of it picking up,” he said. “And we are seeing signs of initial claims going down. It is slight but we are seeing some momentum.”

A new number shows 84 percent of people with eligible claims have started receiving money. However that leaves 16 percent who have not.

Terry Carpenter was furloughed from his job as a bartender at Henry’s in midtown Atlanta. He got approval for his unemployment benefits on March 15 but still hasn’t got any money.

“I don’t even have any gas in my car. I don’t have enough money to catch a bus." Carpenter said. “I check my account everyday and everyday at eight I try to call and try to get through. Hopefully one day it will kick in. Not yet.”

[Everything Georgians need to know about the stimulus payments, unemployment and more]

The GDOL says it has issued over $1.7 billion in combined state and federal unemployment benefits in the past seven weeks.

Butler also says the state is struggling to get in contact with people who have significant defects on their claims.

In Cherokee County, a company called Express Employment held their first ever drive-through job fair Thursday.

The company gave out breakfast sandwiches and conducted interviews on the spot along Town Lake Parkway. Many job seekers found an opportunity on the spot.

“You know, I’ve been trying to get hired and it’s a lot of frustrating, monotonous stuff that you do over and over again. This took all the complications out of it. Made it so simple,” Corey Keithley told Channel 2 anchor Lori Wilson.

A spokesperson for Express Employment said things are picking up and it has been very exciting for their company to be able to give up to those who need it.

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