ATLANTA - Nearly 400,000 Georgians filed unemployment claims last week, more than three times the claims filed the week before and more than were filed during all of last year, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The 390,132 claims the state agency processed during the week of March 29 through April 4 were part of the 6.6 million claims filed nationwide as job losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic continued to climb. The national number remained about the same as the previous week.

Most of the new unemployment claims filed with the state were from the workers in the food service industry and other areas of the service sector.

The labor department paid out nearly $41.8 million in unemployment benefits to 168,319 Georgians last week.

“Thanks to [Gov. Brian Kemp] and his support of this agency, we have been able to automate much of this process by requiring employers to file on behalf of their employees, making this process much easier for Georgians to receive benefits,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said. “We are working daily to increase the efficiency of our systems and update our resources on our website to assist applicants with the process.”

Last week, the labor department processed 201,844 employer-filed claims, which are filed on behalf of employees who are temporarily laid off or have had their hours reduced. Employer-filed claims eliminate the labor-intensive employer verification needed for individually filed claims.

If filed with no errors, an employer-filed claim should take less than a week to pay the employee. An individual claim, with no errors, can take up to 21 days to process and pay the claimant.

Butler encouraged Georgians to visit the agency’s website at www.dol.georgia.gov to access applications, step-by-step instructions and video tutorials on applying for unemployment. He emphasized that with the huge volume of claims the agency is receiving, people need to use the online tools when possible.

For those individuals currently receiving state unemployment benefits, the labor department anticipates being able to start delivering the additional $600 supplement from the federal stimulus bill Congress passed last month beginning next week. The federal supplement will be an additional payment to regular weekly state unemployment benefits.

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