Georgians receiving unemployment benefits will once again be required to look for work and will be able to earn less before unemployment payments drop beginning June 27.
Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced the changes Thursday, also saying employers with many laid-off workers collecting benefits will face higher unemployment insurance taxes after that date.
It's a further tightening of Georgia's unemployment assistance as Butler and other elected Republican state leaders say the state needs to do more to push people into the workforce.
Georgia announced last month that, beginning June 27, it would cut off federal programs that provide a $300-a-week boost to people on the jobless rolls, as well as programs that pay federal money to people not usually eligible for state unemployment or who have been on jobless aid for longer than the state provides. Those federal programs will last through September in some states. Tennessee is ending its extra federal supplemental pay on July 3.
Butler had earlier signaled he would reinstate work-search requirements, a move underway in more than three-quarters of states. Employers will also be asked to report when workers refuse to return to work or refuse a job offer, which could cause workers to lose benefits going forward. To keep drawing benefits after June 26, Georgia residents must register with the EmployGeorgia.com website.
"We adjusted many of our regulations during the pandemic to make receiving benefits easier during the crisis and now those modifications are no longer necessary," Butler said in a statement.
For more than a year, Georgia workers with reduced hours have been able to earn up to $300 a week in wages before seeing their jobless benefits reduced. That meant workers could earn up to $665 in wages and benefits, factoring in Georgia's maximum weekly jobless benefit of $365 a week. The state's minimum benefit is $55 a week.
Now that income threshold will drop to $150 a week, meaning a worker with reduced hours can earn a maximum of $515 a week before becoming ineligible for benefits.
The announcement comes as the number of American filing for jobless benefits last week continued to fall. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell for the sixth straight week as the U.S. economy, held back for months by the coronavirus pandemic, reopens rapidly.
Jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 376,000 from 385,000 the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The number of people signing up for benefits exceeded 900,000 in early January and has fallen more or less steadily ever since. Still, claims are high by historic standards. Before the pandemic brought economic activity to a near-standstill in March 2020, weekly applications were regularly coming in below 220,000.
Nearly 3.5 million people were receiving traditional state unemployment benefits the week of May 29, down by 258,000 from 3.8 million the week before.
In Tennessee, the number of initial new jobless claims rose last week to 7,841, including 624 new claims in Hamilton County and 189 in Bradley County.A total of 118,056 Tennesseans continued to received unemployment insurance payments last week, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported.
Despite the weekly uptick last week, the number of initial jobless claims filed in Tennessee last week was only a third as many as were filed a year ago.
"As life normalizes and the service sector continues to gain momentum, we expect initial jobless claims to continue to trend lower, said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at the economic and financial consulting firm Maria Fiorini Ramirez, Inc.