Analysis: COVID-19 unemployment claims to surpass those made during Great Recession

The public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in what could be a number of unemployment insurance claims unequaled in the 21st century.

These claims, according to a new analysis by New Jersey Policy Perspective, are expected to surpass the amount filed during the Great Recession. The report compared current UI claims with those made during the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009) and what it called the Early 2000s Recession (March 2001 to November 2001).

Since the beginning of March and through April 25, the report found New Jersey had more than 930,000 UI claims. The claims are equivalent to 83% of claims seen during the Great Recession, nearly twice the amount filed during the Early 2000s and 1,500% higher when comparing April to February.

“Our state has never experienced anything quite like this,” Nicole Rodriguez, research director and report author, NJPP, said. “Even more alarming is that this record-setting number severely undercounts the total extent of job loss.”

Since 1990, about 1% of the labor force applied for unemployment each month. In March, the figure skyrocketed to 7.9% and is expected to increase in April with new data.

NJPP expects total claims made by the end of May will surpass all the jobless claims made during the Great Recession.

The numbers, however, don’t paint the entire picture. Not all state workers are eligible for benefits, and so they aren’t filing claims. An NJPP analysis from earlier this week showed there are at least 125,000 undocumented immigrant workers who are feeling the effects of COVID-19. These families are not eligible for UI benefits and were not included in the federal government’s CARES Act.

“State lawmakers must fill the gaps in the federal government’s stimulus bills to ensure no worker or family is left behind in the state’s recovery,” Rodriguez added.

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