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Unemployment rate in Douglas falls to 6.9%

Douglas County continues to see a decline in its unemployment rate and number of initial unemployment claims, according to the latest figures released by the state Labor Department last week.

The unemployment rate for August in Douglas County was 6.9% as compared to 9.3% in July, according to the agency’s data. Last August, the county had a 3.8% rate.

The city of Douglasville had a 7.6% unemployment rate for August as compared to 10.1 in July, but still is well-above the 4.1% rate last August.

“This is still not at pre-COVID-19 levels, but we are moving in the right direction,” wrote UWG’s Center for Business and Economics Research Director Hilde Patron in an email. “There is, however, a lot of movement in the labor market right now. Between July and August, the number of unemployed individuals in the county actually decreased by a little over 130.”

As a state, Georgia had a 5.6% unemployment rate last month, which is well-below the national rate of 8.4% for the national rate in August.

The state numbers were encouraging to Gov. Brian Kemp, who faced criticism as Georgia was one of the first states to open back up.

“In addition to a strengthening job market, revenues to the state have shown encouraging progress, Georgia has maintained its AAA bond rating, and new economic development projects in July and August have already equaled a third of total projects from the entire previous fiscal year — with $642 million in new investment and over 4,000 jobs announced by the Georgia Department of Economic Development in August alone,” Kemp said.

Patron said she isn’t surprised with Georgia’s jobless numbers.

“I think that our economy was a little stronger than the national average before COVID, our lockdown procedures were not as strenuous as other states’, and our industries were not as heavily affected by COVID as some states’ were,” Patron email stated. “For instance, when compared to states like California, New York, Hawaii, Florida, and Nevada, which are very service and tourism oriented, Georgia was not hit as hard; we have a diverse base, we are not focused in one particular industry, and we have less invested in tourism than the larger states do.”

Almost $14 billion has been paid in state and federal benefits by the Department of Labor since the beginning of the pandemic in March. The department issued $366 million in benefits last week.

These benefits included regular unemployment and federally funded Lost Wages Assistance supplements, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Federal Unemployment Compensation and state payments.

Last week, the state began issuing payments of $900 as part of FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance program to employees who have had their wages cut due to the coronavirus pandemic. A second payment of $900 was issued this week.

In the months leading up to the pandemic, the statewide unemployment rate held steady between 3.1-3.3% from August 2019 to February 2020. That rate began to climb in March, when the unemployment rate increased 1.5 percentage points to 4.6%.

After the rate tripled in April, the statewide unemployment rate has declined steadily in the last five months.

“It is very promising that we continue to see the unemployment rate drop month after month, while the job market gets stronger, evoking positive news for Georgia’s economy,” Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a release. “The state as a whole is leading the nation in competitive unemployment rates, coming in at 7th lowest.”

Georgia has a labor force of 4.9 million, the Labor Department said in a separate release. The states with lower unemployment rates were Nebraska, Utah, South Dakota, Vermont and North Dakota.

“As we continue to rebound from the economic devastation of COVID-19, we have seen our unemployment rate plummet the past several months on the statewide level and across Georgia in all of our cities and communities,” Butler said in his announcement. “With one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, we will continue to support Georgians with unemployment and now re-employment services.”

Times-Georgian staff writer Michael O’Hearn contributed to this report.

Hill back in Victory Lane

Winston native Austin Hill, driver of the #16 Weins Canada Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday to clinch a spot in the second round of the playoffs. The Alexander High graduate picked up his second straight win at the Las Vegas track. He was the regular-season points champion.

KDB fall recycling event set for Saturday

Keep Douglasville Beautiful, the city’s Keep America Beautiful affiliate, is hosting its annual fall recycling event on Saturday, Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. This year, the fall recycling event will be a drive-through and drop off event only. The use of masks, limiting shared touched surfaces, and maintaining social distance will be strictly adhered to.

“This event allows residents to recycle items not accepted in curbside recycling. Volunteers will be on hand to unload vehicles as they drive through the overflow parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church of Douglasville located at 9190 Campbellton Street,” Keep Douglasville Beautiful Executive Director Chan Weeks said. “By keeping these items out of the landfill, we are not only protecting our environment, but we are also being good stewards with our non-renewable resources.”

Examples of the items that will be accepted include electronics, scrap metal, appliances, televisions, computer monitors, and more. Most items are free to recycle, however, there will be a $5 fee for each television or monitor that is dropped off.

In addition to those larger recycling items, the Douglas County Lions Club will also be on hand accepting eyeglasses and hearing aids for their Lighthouse Foundation.

Participants will also be able to support the Lions Club in their efforts to raise funds to continue to serve the Douglas County Community in fighting blindness, caring for the environment, feeding the hungry, as well as aiding the seniors and the disabled by purchasing BBQ plates for $5 and whole Boston Butts for $30 at the event. The BBQ plates include a sandwich, chips and a drink.

For more information about this and future recycling events, contact Keep Douglasville Beautiful at 770-920-3005 or email info@KeepDouglasvilleBeau tiful.org.

U.S. Senator Perdue supports Supreme Court nominee and will move to confirm within next month

U.S. Sen. David Perdue said he fully supports the president’s Supreme Court nominee and plans to confirm her for the highest court of the nation by the time of the Nov. 3 election.

In an interview with the Times-Georgian on Monday, he said of new Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett that he was “delighted the president chose someone with a distinct career.”

On Saturday, Trump picked Barrett, a federal appellate judge and Notre Dame law professor, to replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, died on Sept. 18 after a battle with cancer.

“I think we’re going to go ahead and move straight ahead to a judiciary hearing the week after this one,” Perdue said. “With the timeframe that we are allowed, it will go straight to a confirmation vote in the Senate.”

He added that final vote could be held the week before the presidential election.

Perdue, the incumbent Republican U.S. senator, is facing off against Democrat candidate, Jon Ossoff, in his first bid for re-election since being elected in 2014. Perdue spent 40 years in the corporate world, including stints as CEO of Reebok and Dollar General.

U.S. senators serve for six years, and because former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson retired in December, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs this year. Recent polls show Perdue and Ossoff within the margin of error, meaning the state could potentially flip from being historically red to blue. As a result, these races are being closely watched across the nation.

“My role in this thing is that the people in Georgia, whom I trust, have all the information they need to make a good decision,” Perdue said. “I hope they will be informed in this election. It’s not about Trump and it’s not even really about me.”

In March 2016, when President Obama nominated a Supreme Court justice in the final year of his term, Perdue said he would not pick a new Supreme Court nominee until the next president is sworn in, according to TIME magazine.

On Monday, he told the newspaper he had done research and found that, on 19 occasions in U.S. history, a Supreme Court vacancy had become available in the fourth year of a sitting, first-term president.

He said this occurred when the Senate and the White House were controlled by the same party and added the nominee was “always confirmed.”

“What I did was, when I looked at in ‘16, the precedent here is that in the 10 times it has happened where the parties were different, a split-government,” he said, “eight of those times, they delayed until after the election. I decided that was the right thing to do then.”

“Even Justice Ginsburg has said, at one point, that when you have the White House and Senate in the same party with the fourth year, first-term president, that you should, of course, go ahead and nominate and confirm. There’s no reason not to do that. My opinion is the same from ‘16 and now in ‘20, with the historical legacy that we have in confirming Justices to the Supreme Court.”

He said, if he is reelected, he wants to make sure residents have access to labor, especially in the agriculture community. To do this, he has put forward an immigration system that would provide the type of workers needed to “protect American jobs and the pay scales for Americans.”

Earlier this year, he supported a congressional financial aid package of $2.9 trillion to employees impacted by the coronavirus, something he said he would not have “believed” when he was elected in 2014.

This includes the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which he said went to some of the smallest businesses across the nation and their employees.

“We were told by public health officials that we had to protect America, which is what (President Donald) Trump did, and that’s what I wanted to do. In doing that, we had to protect our small businesses and the workers in those small businesses,” he said.

On broadband access, he said one of “the great learnings of COVID-19” was the need for connectivity when it comes to telehealth and students who are virtual learning from home.

He said this is not just a federal issue but will also take private-public partnership funding to expand access to rural communities.

“If you’re going to do telehealth and tele-education in a moment of crisis, you’ve got to have total access across the state,” he said. “We’ve been saying for years we don’t have broadband access in our rural communities. We have a full-court press on that. The (federal) Department of Agriculture has already donated $3 billion toward that this year. It’s clearly one of the prerequisites, I think, to rural development.

“We’ve had urbanization over the last 30 years in Georgia. We need to have a rebirth in our rural areas, and I think the No. 1 way of doing that is providing rural broadband access.”