ATLANTA – The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced today that 66,614 laid-off workers filed first-time claims for state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in September, an increase of 17.6 percent from September of 2008. The number of UI claimants decreased by 3,255 from August when 69,869 claims were filed.

However, the average length of time jobless Georgia workers drew UI benefits increased from 11.8 weeks in September of 2008 to 14.0 weeks in September of 2009.

“While the pace of new layoffs continued to moderate in September, the average length of time that jobless Georgians are receiving unemployment insurance benefits is now longer than it’s been since March 1976,” said State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. “This is a strong reminder that we must increase our efforts to help unemployed Georgians find new jobs or careers. I believe that federal, state, and local governments must invest greater public sector resources in order to stimulate job creation by small businesses.”

Thurmond encouraged employers and job seekers to take advantage of the opportunities available through expanded use of the Georgia Work$ (GW$) initiative. This proven GDOL strategy significantly reduces employer costs associated with recruiting, training, and hiring new employees. For more information about the GW$ hiring strategy, visit www.dol.state.ga.us or email inquiries to gaworks@dol.state.ga.us. GW$ telephone operators are available at 1-877-WORKS09 (1-877-967-5709).

The number of jobless workers receiving state UI benefits rose 58.8 percent over the year, from 88,121 in September of 2008 to 139,900 in September of 2009. Approximately 150,000 UI claimants are receiving federally-funded extended benefits, bringing the total number of UI beneficiaries to 289,900.

Most of the initial claims were filed by laid-off workers in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, construction, and administrative and support services.

Georgia labor market data are available at www.dol.state.ga.us.