ATLANTA — Georgia’s economy isn’t back to pre-pandemic levels, but it’s making significant strides.

In Cherokee County new unemployment claims peaked in early April. The most recent weekly claims are 92.7 percent lower than the peak.

Unemployment in Georgia fell by 2 percentage points last month to 5.6%, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday. That’s well below the national unemployment rate for August of 8.4% and less than half the 12.6% state jobless rate back in April.

In Cherokee County there were 846 new unemployment claims last week, a 7.5 percent increase over the previous week, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. According to the state Labor Department, Cherokee County had a peak of 9,857 new unemployment claims on April 4 and has been trending downward since.

“We anticipated a drop in the unemployment rate, as we have seen many businesses reengaging in the economy and bringing employees back to work,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said.

Initial unemployment claims for August were down by 50% from July to 247,623, while new claims have dropped by more than 1.1 million.

“We have recovered more than 65% of the jobs lost since the pandemic began in mid-March,” Butler said. “After the substantial decline in employment in April, these types of increases are exactly what we need to get us back on course.”

The labor department issued $485 million in state and federal benefits, including the first checks provided through the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, an initiative President Donald Trump announced last month after Congress failed to reach an agreement to extend an earlier federal program that expired at the end of July.

The LWA, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is providing six weekly $300 supplements to unemployed workers, half of the amount they were getting under the earlier program. The first three weeks were paid out last week, to be followed by the other three weeks of checks this week.

From March 21 through the end of last week, the labor department has processed nearly 3.7 million first-time unemployment claims, more than the last eight years combined.

During that period, the accommodation and food services job sector has accounted for the most claims with 883,369. The health care and social assistance sector is next with 430,498 claims, followed by retail trade with 394,342.

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Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor Gary Tanner contributed to this report.

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