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VERIFY | Is Georgia's unemployment rate low because it was the first state to reopen?

Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted Wednesday that Georgia's unemployment rate has dropped for 14 months as a result of it being the first state to reopen. Is this true?

ATLANTA — The pandemic took a toll on the whole world, as COVID-19 cases climbed and drove unemployment numbers up. 

Governor Brian Kemp turned to social media Wednesday saying "the Peach State continues to thrive" after Georgia was the first in the country to reopen.

Many Georgians message 11Alive daily since the start of the pandemic with questions about unemployment claims and the unemployment rate, and how those stand now.


Governor Kemp tweeted, "Georgia was the FIRST in the country to reopen, and our unemployment rate has now dropped for 14 straight months as a result." How accurate are all the claims?



It is true that Georgia was the first in the country to reopen. It is also true that its unemployment rate has dropped for 14 months. However, the correlation between Georgia reopening and its unemployment rate is not provable.


First, we can verify that the Peach State was the first state to reopen in late April, 2020.

At the time, Georgia's COVID-19 cases were steady. The orange section in the image below shows when stay-at-home orders were in place. Numbers did not start rising again until about 90 days after restrictions lifted.

Credit: 11Alive

Second, we can also verify that unemployment has gone down for 14 straight months, hitting 4% in June, which is lower than the national average of 5.9%.

GDOL said Georgia has gained back 76% of the jobs lost in the pandemic and still has more than 190,000 job listings that need to be filled.

"Unemployment spiked right after the start of the pandemic and has been falling very steadily since," said Emory Economic Professor Tom Smith.

But Kemp’s third claim that the unemployment rate has dropped “as a result” of Georgia being the first in the country to reopen is not possible to prove, according to Smith.

“I think it’s just dangerous to say well we did this, we opened up, therefore our economy is doing terrific. That’s just really really dangerous to play around with those kinds of relationships. This is not something you can just say 'oh we did this one switch and therefore everything is great'... that’s just not the way the economy works. That’s almost impossible to really draw any kind of inference between those two events.”

In fact, he said many factors play a role in the unemployment rate, including the number of firms willing to hire, people willing to go back to work, their need for money and their comfort level to work post-pandemic.

So we can verify – Kemp’s tweet is accurate – but the correlation between Georgia reopening and its unemployment rate is not provable. 

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