The Georgia Department of Labor said last week that it plans to reinstate the agency policy that requires unemployment benefit recipients to search for work.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, claimants were required to register for Employment Services, to actively search for work, and to submit weekly work search reports. These requirements were temporarily waived during the state’s shelter in place limitations but will be reinstated in the next few months, according to labor officials.
Georgia’s work search record may include, but is not limited to, registering for work and reemployment services with Employ Georgia, completing a job application in person or online, mailing a job application or resume, making in-person visits with potential employers, interviewing with potential employers, registering for work with employment or placement agencies, or participating in work-related networking events (e.g. job clubs, job fairs, industry association events, networking groups, etc.).
A claimant will be required to make at least three new, verifiable job search contacts each week. Individuals not returning to work when work is available or those that do not show good cause in refusing an offer of work could potentially be disqualified from receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits. Employers will then be asked to report refusals to work and failure to show up for interviews to the GDOL.
Notifications will soon be sent to claimants advising of these changes to the requirements and encouraging them to take action immediately by registering with Employ Georgia before the deadline to avoid interruptions in their payments.
Businesses across the state have reopened their doors and are gearing up for Georgia’s summer tourism rush. After 14 months of intensive effort to provide unemployment insurance benefits to over 1.2 million Georgians, the Georgia Department of Labor is shifting its focus to reemployment in a strategic effort to help meet the needs of employers in every region and industry in our state. Employ Georgia is the state’s official labor exchange system and job listings are currently the highest ever recorded reaching numbers of almost a quarter of a million jobs that could include multiple positions for each listing.
“We are hearing from employers that are struggling to meet demand right now due to the lack of applicants for open positions,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “Our mission is to not only bridge the pay gap for those who are temporarily unemployed, but to also provide reemployment support for those who are looking to reenter the workforce filling the critical vacancies we are seeing in almost every industry right now. I hear every day from employers who have been forced to reduce business hours, refuse large deliveries, and turn down economic opportunities due to the simple fact that they did not have the staff to support them.”
The GDOL provides extensive online support to job seekers looking to rejoin the workforce or find a better career. Claimants receive access to over 240,000 job listings, support to upload up to five searchable resumes, job search assistance, career counseling, skills testing, job fair information, job training services, and accessibility and special accommodations for people with disabilities and veterans transitioning back into the workplace. Employ Georgia’s artificial intelligence system works 24 hours a day to match potential candidates with vacancies that best fit a claimant’s skill sets.
As of today, almost 239,000 jobs are listed on EmployGeorgia for Georgians to access. In many cases, employers are willing to train quality candidates and assist with attainment of additional credentials.
According to latest industry job numbers, the leisure and hospitality sector lost 223,000 jobs from February to April 2020. Since that time to March 2021, 144,000 of these jobs have been gained back, over 65%. However, year-to-date, over 40,000 job vacancies have been listed in the leisure and hospitality industry highlighting the critical need for job applicants and the need to re-implement work search.
“Restaurant owners have battled the last year to overcome the challenges of the pandemic making hard decisions to keep our doors open only to now have to reduce hours and close dine-in services when we can’t find employees,” said Zach Steed, owner of Moe’s Southwest Grill in Carrollton and Newnan, GA and Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen of Villa Rica, GA. “We all want to return to the strong economy we experienced prior to COVID-19, but we can’t do that without an available workforce.”
The GDOL has paid over $21.2 billion in state and federal benefits since the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020. Last week, the GDOL issued almost $190 million in benefits, which include regular unemployment and federally funded Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) supplements, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), and State Extended Benefits.
Since week ending March 21, 2020, 4,745,554 regular UI initial claims have been processed, more than the nine years prior to the pandemic combined (4 million). Last week, regular UI initial claims totaled 25,429, down 3,335 over the week. Additionally, the agency currently has 207, 638 active PUA claims.
The sectors with the most weekly regular UI initial claims processed included Accommodation and Food Services, 6,224, Administrative and Support Services, 2,083, Manufacturing, 1,755, Retail Trade, 1,317, and Health Care, 1,200.
The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States for the week ending May 1, was 498,000, a decrease of 92,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 590,000.