The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development received 155,815* new claims for unemployment insurance for the week ending March 21 – a 1,546% increase over the prior week – and stark evidence of how dramatically COVID-19 has begun to impact the state’s workforce and businesses.
This is by far the Labor Department’s highest total of single-week claims in memory. Initial claims spiked past 46,000 in a single week after Superstorm Sandy in November 2012, and shot up to 25,385 for a week in July 2010, the low point of the last recession.
“We understand the anxiety, uncertainty and fear out there among residents who have been laid off suddenly or seen their hours reduced,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “Despite some challenges our systems are experiencing due to volume, Labor Department staff are working continuously to meet the needs of all of our customers, and get benefits to everyone who deserves them as soon as possible.”
New Jersey has stepped up its efforts to serve this critical-needs population by temporarily suspending the “work search requirement” for laid off workers and creating a jobs portal — jobs.covid19.nj.gov –– to match those who are looking for work with immediate openings in industries on the frontlines of the pandemic. Additionally, applicants in New Jersey do not have a “waiting week” before benefits are paid once they are approved. An extension of benefits beyond the currently allowable 26 weeks is all but certain.
“The fact that so many New Jersey residents hit by this public health emergency were able to apply for benefits in the past week is evidence the system is working as intended,” said Asaro-Angelo. “Our unemployment fund has a healthy surplus, thanks to our employers and employees, and we are able to meet this challenge head on.”
The data released Thursday by the US Department of Labor also indicates that nearly 105,000 residents are currently collecting unemployment, roughly 3 percent less than at this time last year.
The number of initial claims in New Jersey began to spike in the week ending March 14, when the state saw 9,467 initial claims filed, a roughly 18 percent increase in new claims over the week ending March 7.
Applicants can help make the process as smooth as possible by filing online whenever possible; reading about our programs at nj.gov/labor before applying to be sure they are applying for the right program; filling out the application completely with no missing information; filing at off-peak times such as early in the morning or later in the evening; and not checking their claim status once they have filed for benefits and received a confirmation email that their application has been received.
*This represents the final number for the week ended March 21. The number listed for NJ by US Department of Labor – 155,454 – is based on advanced reporting.
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