Weekly-record 214,836 new unemployment claims in N.J., bringing 3-week total to 575K+

Nearly 215,000 new workers applied for unemployment during the week that ended Saturday, April 4, the state’s Department of Labor & Workforce Development reported Thursday morning. The total raised the number of new jobless claims to 576,904 for the past three weeks.

This week’s number of new people filing for unemployment benefits, 214,836, is the highest single-week total during the COVID-19 crisis to date, topping the figure from the week of March 22-28, when 206,253 filed.

Nationally, more than 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Approximately 16.8 million American workers, making up about 10% of the country’s labor force, have field for unemployment benefits in the past three weeks.

A breakdown of the claims in New Jersey that were processed from March 15-April 4 shows the hardest-hit sectors have been food/accommodation services, ambulatory health care (doctors’ and dentists’ offices), personal services (hair and nail salons) and temporary employment agencies, the labor department said in a release.

More than 90% of new unemployment applications were filed online at myunemployment.nj.gov.

The Labor Department recommends this method for fastest, most efficient service — and it also recommends that applicants read the department’s FAQs before filing a claim, to help ensure the application is filed correctly, which speeds processing time.

The Labor Department understands there are delays in processes these unprecedented number of claims — but reiterated that the department is backdating claims to ensure that no one loses a week of benefits, even if they can’t get through right away.

The state has paid $283.9 million in unemployment benefits for the five-week period from March 2-April 3, including nearly $90 million this past week. And, while the Labor Department has brought on more employees to help handle the volume, Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said he understands the frustration of those still waiting for benefits.

“The number of new claims the Labor Department is receiving and the amount of benefits being paid to hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans shows the system is working, but we understand that’s of little consolation if you’re out of work and waiting for your benefits,” Asaro-Angelo said in a statement.

Asaro-Angelo said residents already collecting unemployment will begin to see their $600 supplemental unemployment benefit arrive April 14 (for the week of March 30). It will be a separate payment and will continue to be paid for eligible weeks through July 31, he said.

Other workers eligible for special unemployment compensation known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are urged to begin the process. Freelancers, independent contractors and gig workers should apply for unemployment now.

The Labor Department said their standard unemployment claim likely will be denied, but said being ineligible for regular unemployment is a federal prerequisite to being eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. These workers should also gather two years of income records, which will be used to calculate the amount of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance they are entitled to receive.

Meanwhile, New Jersey has stepped up its efforts to serve the unemployed 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 nearly 50,000 openings in industries on the frontlines of the pandemic. Thousands of positions are available immediately throughout the state.

For national unemployment data, visit www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf. For archived New Jersey claims data, visit oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/DataDashboard.asp.