For the second week in a row, the number of weekly unemployment claims filed in New Jersey hovered around 140,000 after two weeks in which the weekly volume of claims topped 200,000, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced today. Since the week of March 15, the first full week of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 850,000 workers filed for unemployment. This is more than 10 times the number who filed for unemployment this time last year (84,000 workers).
On the national level, approximately 4.4 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, resulting in more than 26 million job losses since the beginning of the pandemic, wiping out the 22.7 million jobs created since the Great Recession. This means one in six Americans is out of a job.
Flooded with unemployment claims like other states, New Jersey’s Labor Department says it us working hard to implement the processes to administer Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and a companion program that offers a federal extension of benefits to those who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state unemployment.
Earlier this week, the Labor Department posted simplified guides for independent contractors/freelancers/self-employed that explain the benefits and walk them through the application process. Those guides can be found here: https://bit.ly/2VRSZUK. The Labor Department urges workers in this category to read both guides before submitting their application to avoid delays.
“Our top priority has always been to get benefits into the wallets of everyone who deserves them as quickly as possible,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “We are working diligently on getting federal benefits to independent contractors, freelancers and self-employed workers whose incomes have dried up due to COVID-19, and continuing to reduce the number of claims requiring an agent review, so we can pay those workers quickly without running afoul of U.S. Department of Labor requirements.”
New Jersey workers collecting unemployment also received their second $600 supplemental weekly benefit deposited in their accounts. The second supplemental payment was for the week ending April 11th; this additional benefit will continue weekly through the end of July.
Upwards of 92% of new unemployment applications are being filed online at myunemployment.nj.gov, which the Labor Department recommends. The department also continues to backdate claims to ensure that no one loses a week of benefits, even if they haven’t been able to contact an agent.
It’s important to note that anyone who refuses work or voluntarily quits a job is ineligible for unemployment.
The state paid $604 million in unemployment benefits for the seven-week period from March 2 through April 17. Additionally, approximately $394 million in supplemental payments has reached unemployed New Jersey workers in the past two weeks. In total, $1 billion in benefits have been distributed by the state since the pandemic.
Many economists are saying the US unemployment rate stands at 15% and that it could reach 20%. Meanwhile, the the jobless rate during the Great Depression peaked at 25%.
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