ATLANTA - Jobless Georgians filed 49,421 initial unemployment claims last week, up 7,341 from the previous week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

First-time claims had been on the decline for seven weeks in a row, as Georgia businesses shut down last spring by the coronavirus pandemic reopened and brought back many of their employees.

More than 3.7 million Georgians have filed first-time unemployment claims since March 21, more than were filed during the past eight years combined.

On the positive side, most of those claims came early in the pandemic. As the state’s economy has reopened, unemployment has fallen from 12.6% last April to 5.6% last month, seventh lowest in the nation. Only Nebraska, Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Vermont and North Dakota had lower unemployment rates than Georgia in August.

“As we continue to rebound from the economic devastation of COVID-19, we have seen our unemployment rate plummet the past several months on the statewide level and across Georgia in all our cities and communities,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said.

Meanwhile, eligible unemployed Georgians received a final round of supplemental payments this week through the federal Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, an initiative President Donald Trump announced last month after Congress failed to extend an earlier program that expired in July.

The LWA provided $300 weekly checks for six weeks, half of the $600 checks the earlier program had been providing.

Since March 21, the accommodation and food services sector has accounted for the most jobless claims in Georgia with 896,606. The health care and social assistance sector is next with 434,738 claims, followed by retail trade with 398,924.

More than 161,000 jobs are listed online at EmployGeorgia.com for Georgians to access. The labor department offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume and assisting with other reemployment needs.

“We have highly experienced staff to help to help get Georgians back into the workforce and business owners looking for employees to fill critical positions as we continue to recover from the pandemic,” Butler said.

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