Georgia repays $1 billion unemployment loan; state’s jobless rate 7 percent

Payoff to federal government includes principal and interest

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comMay 19, 2014 

The Georgia Department of Labor offices on Seventh Street and Veterans Parkway. 10.03.13

ROBIN TRIMARCHI — rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

Georgia’s unemployment rate remains steady at 7 percent, while the state labor department said Monday it has repaid in full the nearly $1 billion federal loan it used to keep benefits flowing during the Great Recession.

The department’s Atlanta office said the final principal payment of $62 million and change was sent to its federal counterpart, the U.S. Department of Labor, last Thursday. The payoff had been previously projected for 2016.

The loan for Georgia’s unemployment trust fund was received by the state in 2009.

“Georgia’s ability to pay off its unemployment trust fund loan two years early is a testament to the determination of Georgia employers, the Georgia Department of Labor and our state’s General Assembly,” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement.

Mark Butler, who succeeded Michael Thurmond as Georgia’s labor commissioner in January 2011, also applauded the repayment, saying employers throughout the state helped make it happen. He said they have created more than 175,000 jobs in the state, easing pressure on the trust fund. Employers fund the trust account through unemployment insurance taxes.

Economists say the recession started in December 2007, and at that time Georgia’s trust fund stood at $1.3 billion. A tsunami of layoffs quickly depleted the money, requiring the federal loan. Since the funds were borrowed five years ago, the state has paid out just under $4 billion in unemployment benefits.

On top of the $956.3 million federal loan, the state also has paid $56.7 million in interest. The last interest payment of $2.7 million is due by Sept. 30, making the final total from the state to shore up the trust fund during troubled times more than $1 billion.

The news comes with the Georgia Department of Labor last week reporting the jobless rate for the state in April was 7 percent, the same as in March. In April 2013, the rate was 8.3 percent.

The state’s job total increased slightly to 4,107,800, while first-time claims for unemployment assistance came in at 33,561, which is down from 42,644 first-time filings a year ago.

Metro area data released show Columbus adding 600 jobs year over year, with a work force of 122,100 in April. Every metro area except Augusta, Brunswick and Warner Robins gained jobs.

Columbus saw its first-time unemployment claims drop, with 782 individuals seeking assistance locally in April. A year ago, that number was 839. Albany was the only metro area to experience a year-over-year increase in benefit filings.

The labor department will release April jobless rates for the state’s metro areas Thursday. The Columbus metro area rate in March was 7.6 percent.

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