Murphy says COVID-19 prevention efforts led to high unemployment rate

At 7%, N.J. has one of highest rates in U.S., but governor is confident economy will rebound

Gov. Phil Murphy said the state’s unemployment rate — which, in October, was 49th in the country at 7% — is the result of the aggressive steps he took during the early stages of the pandemic.

“I think, if you look at our current unemployment rate, it is very similar to states that took steps that aggressively went after public health in similar levels of strength of steps,” he said.

Murphy did not name the states he had in mind. And, since every state took measures, it may be hard to quantify which states Murphy was talking about. However, October numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that New York (6.9%) had a similar figure, with Connecticut coming in at 6.4% and Pennsylvania at 6%.

The states that have touted fewer restrictions had lower rates, with Texas coming in at 5% and Florida at 4.6%.

Murphy is confident the state’s unemployment number will continue to drop.

“We had achieved the lowest record unemployment level in the history of the state before the crisis,” he said. “I have every confidence we’re going to get back to that neighborhood.”

Unless, of course, there is another surge, based on the Delta and potentially Omicron variants.

Murphy said the state will benefit from the federal money that has come in.

“If nothing else, when you combine the American Rescue Plan money with the infrastructure money, with what hopefully will be another big investment bill coming out of Congress, I have every optimism that our economy is going to get fully back on its feet,” he said.

On Friday, Murphy announced plans to spend $700 million to stimulate growth and improve public health.