ATLANTA — First-time unemployment claims in Georgia declined last week after a brief uptick the week before, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

Jobless Georgians filed 26,532 initial claims last week, down 5,854 from the previous week.

Meanwhile, the department announced that through the end of last week, the state had paid more than 95% of all Georgia claimants eligible for unemployment benefits in cases where a request for payment had been made.

“We have devised creative strategies to make this process easier and faster, all while implementing six new federal programs with different requirements during a pandemic,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said Thursday.

“We have issued payments to almost half of Georgia’s workforce in the past 10 months while addressing an incredible amount of fraud. The challenges have been severe, and to be able to pay 95% of claimants … is a testament to the dedication of our staff.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in Georgia last March, the state has paid out almost $18.5 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits to more than 4.4 million Georgians, more than in the last nine years before the pandemic combined.

Of those still waiting on payments, the cause may include the reason for separation or the receipt of severance or retirement payments. If a claimant is separated for any reason other than lack of work and/or they have received severance or retirement pay, their claim must be further reviewed for eligibility.

Currently, the agency is reviewing almost 80,000 claims due to a separation of employees who either quit or were discharged.

The department also is processing more than 65,000 appeals filed when an employee or an employer does not agree with an eligibility determination.

The job sector accounting for the most first-time unemployment claims last week was accommodation and food services with 5,555 claims. The administrative and support services sector was next with 3,156 claims, followed by manufacturing with 2,694.

More than 187,000 jobs are listed online at https://bit.ly/36EA2vk for Georgians to access. The labor department offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs.