Dave Williams of Capitol Beat News Service provided this content for Polk.Today and other readers around Georgia to enjoy. Find additional state and political news at Capitol-beat.org.

ATLANTA – The Georgia Department of Labor surpassed a major milestone last week.

The agency now has paid out more than $20.2 billion in unemployment benefits since the coronavirus pandemic began in Georgia more than a year ago. That’s more than the department had paid out in the 82 years prior to the virus.

“We have issued payments to over 1.5 million Georgians during this pandemic while also continuing to support reemployment services looking to get many of these individuals back into the workplace,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday.

While more and more Georgia businesses have been ramping back up in recent weeks, the number of unemployment claims is still on the rise. Last week, jobless Georgians filed 39,282 initial claims, an increase of 14,493 over the previous week.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the labor agency has processed nearly 4.6 million first-time unemployment claims, more than during the last nine years combined prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The job sector accounting by far for the most claims in Georgia last week was accommodation and food services with 16,315 claims. The administrative and support services sector was next with 4,064 claims, followed by manufacturing with 2,336.

The labor department has 228,512 job listings posted online at https://bit.ly/36EA2vk for Georgians to access. The agency offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume and assisting with other reemployment needs.

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