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As Georgia unemployment claims spike 1,100%, Emory expert says we could see 20-25% unemployment

The state announced it processed 130,000 new claims last week.

ATLANTA — Georgia released its latest unemployment insurance data on Thursday, revealing a startling 1,100% increase in new claims - a raw total of more than 130,000.

It comes as part of a national wave of 6.6 million new unemployment claims - doubling the new record of 3.3 million set just last week and more than nine times the 1982 record that was in place before the coronavirus crisis hit.

“We are seeing the number of claims filed in Georgia skyrocket to levels we have never experienced before,” Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a release.

RELATED: A record 6.6 million seek US jobless aid as layoffs mount

The Georgia Department of Labor said it sent more than $14.5 million in unemployment benefits to more than 64,000 Georgians for the week ending March 28.  

Thomas Smith, an Emory University associate finance professor, told 11Alive's Joe Henke that could suggest an overall unemployment figure that comes to impact a quarter of the state.

"It's very discouraging and very sad to think about that many people who are filing for unemployment, but it's not surprising considering what we've seen," Smith said. "And so what we're talking about in Georgia could be 20-25 percent unemployment rates. It really depends on, in terms of the longevity of that, if companies can take advantage of some of the new policies put out as part of the CARES Act."

Among those, he said, were provisions in the law that allow for small businesses to receive loans to keep paying employees that may eventually be forgiven.

He called current unemployment trends "scary" and "completely uncharted territory."

There is, however, some reason for optimism that Georgia's economy may withstand the crisis relatively better than other states. Smith said after the Peach State economy was hit particularly hard during the Great Recession because of an overreliance on the housing market, it diversified in a way that has set it up for better success during this downturn.

"We've got strong positioning in healthcare technology, we've got strong positioning in a wider range of industries, we don't rely on tourism as much," he said. "I can see how the diversification of our economy would insulate us from maybe some of the harshest elements of this recession. But I don't think that it means that we're not gonna have significant unemployment - we will - but it may not be as bad as some other places. Clearly probably not as bad as LA, New York and I know Chicago is being hit considerably hard. But some economies might be a little more insulated, Georgia might be one of those economies."

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information.

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