Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler spoke to an audience of Cherokee County business and other leaders in an online meeting Tuesday.

ATLANTA — Initial unemployment claims in Georgia fell last week for the third time in the past four weeks, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

However, the agency also released a regional breakdown of April unemployment that showed record highs in many parts of Georgia as the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic deepened.

Record joblessness occurred in Atlanta, coastal Georgia, Northeast Georgia, Northwest Georgia, the River Valley Region surrounding Columbus and the Three Rivers Region southwest of Atlanta.

Whitfield County had the state’s highest unemployment rate last month at 20.6%, followed by Murray County at 20.1%, Clay County at 18.1%, Chattooga County at 17.1%, Glynn County at 17.0%, Chatham County at 16.4%, Clayton County at 16.0%, Meriwether County at 15.8%, Troup County at 15.4%, and Heard County at 15.1%.

“We are seeing all-time high unemployment rates across a majority of the state,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said. “We are continuing to work with employers on effective strategies to get Georgians back to work in both a safe and economically efficient way.”

The 165,499 initial unemployment claims filed last week in Georgia were down about 12,000 from the previous week.

Weekly unemployment benefits paid out during the last week totaled $159.5 million, down $28 million from the previous week, the first decline in weekly benefits paid since the week ending March 21. Since that date, the state has paid out nearly $1.1 billion in unemployment benefits, more than the last three years combined.

Over the past 10 weeks, the accommodation and food services job sector has accounted for 563,631 initial unemployment claims, the largest by far. The health care and social assistance sector is next with 254,406 claims, followed closely by retail trade with 252,688 claims.

The labor department is continuing to work with employers to announce job opportunities that are critical during the coronavirus crisis – some in the workplace and others that can be done from home. More than 101,000 jobs are listed online at

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