State of Working Georgia: 2020 COVID Disaster Annual Evaluate

The central theses:

  • Over 4.1 million Georgians have applied for unemployment benefits since the COVID pandemic began.
  • Black Georgians filed 25 percent fewer lawsuits in April than white, Asian, and Hispanic / Latin American Georgians combined; As of November, Black Georgians filed 71 percent more lawsuits than anyone else combined. This is evidence of wealth inequality and “last hired, first laid off” which is driving unemployed black Georgians with historically lower wealth to turn to the unemployment security phenomenon during the COVID recession.
  • Georgians are still enrolled in unemployment insurance, which is ten times higher than in the same period in 2019.

Nine months after the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia continues to experience a historic and uniquely complex economic recession, with some showing signs of recovery while others are facing mounting financial hardship. These differences can be seen through a holistic view of the latest economic data and the voices of those at the forefront of this recession. Towards the end of 2020, underemployed and long-term unemployed Georgians remain unable to support their families; government agencies struggle to serve the public while austerity measures; and the economy needs bold and just recovery solutions.

Since the COVID pandemic began in March, over 4.1 million Georgians have registered as unemployed. Although turnaround times vary, the urgency of the unemployed Georgians and the households they support remains constant. An unemployed Georgia resident pending her lawsuit described “problems buying needed medication, impending car confiscation, termite infestation and juggling payments for light, water and gas bills.”

Compared to job losses from the Great Recession, which started in 2007 and peaked in 2009, the peak of unemployment during the COVID pandemic peaked even higher in just a few weeks. From late March to late October, almost eight months in a row, unemployed Georgians filed more than 41,522 applications per week, which was the highest weekly number of applications in Georgia during the Great Recession. While some jobs have returned in the past few months, there is still a long road to recovery. Meanwhile, Georgians continue to turn to historic safety net programs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted several industries in Georgia. Without agriculture, over 531,000 jobs were initially lost, 373,000 have returned since October. The hospitality industry had the biggest impact, initially losing over 223,000 jobs. Although 71 percent of these jobs have returned since October, many of them cannot be done remotely. Hospitality workers are also disproportionately represented by black people and typically do “essential jobs” that include frontline duties and close contact, which often compels them to between risking their health and earning paychecks to support their families choose.

State of Working Georgia: 2020 COVID Disaster Annual Evaluate

Unemployment and Underemployment in Georgia

During the height of the downsizing in Georgia in April, the unemployment rate was 12.6 percent. In October it was 4.5 percent. However, the unemployment rate alone does not tell the whole story of the employment situation in Georgia. Historically, disaggregated data has shown that Latinx’s unemployment rate is significantly higher than that of Georgia’s white workforce, while the unemployment rate for black Georgians has doubled and sometimes tripled than their white counterparts.

As of October, Georgia’s latest Employment Ratio (EPOP), or the proportion of Georgian adults in employment, came in at 58.3 percent, still well below the normal pre-COVID-19 recession level of over 60 percent . That difference means hundreds of thousands of Georgians who have left working life and are yet to return due to the COVID pandemic.

Many of the Georgians who have returned to work or found new employment after their leave of absence are underemployed. Underemployment refers to those who work less than full time for economic reasons. Georgia’s latest underemployment rate of 4.4 percent is higher than the corresponding national rate of 4.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Breakdown of data has historically shown that underemployment is much higher for workers of color in Georgia. Data from the Great Recession onwards shows that Hispanic / Latin American underemployment was consistently higher than that of Georgian white people, and black underemployment has consistently doubled that of their white counterparts. Underemployment usually results in lower wages and little to no benefits such as paid vacation or employer-funded health insurance, which are particularly critical during a pandemic.

Access to the unemployment insurance system

After eight months of the COVID-19 recession, when unemployment insurance (UI) registrations consistently broke the records of the Great Recession, unemployment insurance registrations in November 2020 were no longer record-breaking, but were still significantly higher than the values ​​before the COVID- 19 sickness dated November 2019. When digging deeper into trends in pandemic unemployment enrollment by race, ethnicity and gender, the experiences and pathways to recovery for the affected Georgians have been far from fair.

In April, black Georgians filed 25 percent fewer unemployment claims than white, Asian, and Hispanic / Latin American Georgians combined. However, by November, black Georgians filed 71 percent more jobless claims than white, Hispanic / Latin American, and Asian Georgians combined. When comparing unemployment data between black and white Georgians alone, the differences are even greater.

In April, black Georgians filed 20 percent fewer unemployment claims than white Georgians. By November, black Georgians filed 93 percent more lawsuits than their white counterparts. These overrepresentation tendencies among black Georgians turning to the unemployment safety net are evidence of the “last hired, first laid off” phenomenon in which black workers are the first to cut their hours and jobs and force them to disproportionate themselves to turn to unemployment programs. They can also be attributed to persistent wealth inequality, which leaves black Georgians with fewer financial resources to protect them from temporary setbacks and loss of income.

Unemployment differences have also emerged between the sexes when comparing Georgia’s unemployment registration data from just before the pandemic to April 2020 to date. During the six-month period leading up to the COVID pandemic, from October 2019 to March 2020, Georgian women filed 23 percent fewer jobless claims than Georgian men. However, in the COVID pandemic period from April 2020 to November 2020, this trend shifted, with women filing 15 percent more claims than men.

While earlier months of the pandemic were even higher, Department of Labor (DOL) enrollment data shows there are currently over 408,000 Georgians enrolled and receiving unemployment insurance benefits. This includes those who continue to receive regular government unemployment benefits and those who receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) who have lost their jobs as gig workers, part-time workers, self-employed, and church workers. In November 2020, Georgia UI enrollment was 10 times higher than in November 2019, before the pandemic started.

In addition to those currently on regular Unemployment Benefit and PUA benefits, there are a growing number of unemployed Georgians who have exhausted their allotted weeks of Regular Unemployment Benefit and are entitled to an additional 13 weeks of Pandemic Extended Unemployment Benefit (PEUC) granted by the federal government according to the CARES law. Although enrollment data is not currently available for unemployed Georgians who have exhausted their regular UI benefits and have qualified to receive PEUC benefits, the latest financial data from DOL suggests that the enrollment rate rose significantly in October. From September 2020 to October 2020, PEUC payments to eligible beneficiaries increased 245 percent.


Georgia’s UI enrollment numbers show that despite the unemployment rate falling nearly 5 percentage points since May and the return of some of the jobs lost at the start of the pandemic, Georgia is still a long way from recovering. Indeed, these measures alone do not show the remaining historical and persistent long-term unemployment. And as Congress works to negotiate a new stimulus package, they must take into account the hundreds of thousands of Georgians who continue to rely on a safety net that may be their only safeguard from homelessness and deep poverty.

A Georgia parent told GBPI, “I can no longer afford childcare for my toddler, but unemployment insurance has allowed me to attend interviews and apply for a variety of positions. Without this source of income, my family and I cannot hold our home and fear the end of aid on December 26. ”This scale of crisis is shared by over 330,000 Georgians, who experts predict will face a cliff if they Aid funds from the CARES Act expire.

PUA and PEUC programs expire within a few days. Congress must expand funding for these critical programs in the next federal stimulus package. This is the best way to provide Georgian families with vital resources that will support economic recovery as workers regain full employment in an economy where holistic labor policies show it is far from full recovery.