NJ Unemployment Claims Surge To Record High In Coronavirus Crisis

Tom Davis

This article originally appeared on the Asbury Park Patch

NEW JERSEY – New Jersey unemployment claims have surged to a record level – a 1,546 percent increase over the previous week – as the Garden State continues to battle the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

Non-essential businesses have been shut and schools have closed as New Jersey is dealing with the nation's second-highest case total – 4,402 – and 62 people have died. Read more: NJ Coronavirus Updates: Here's What You Need To Know

New Jersey has set up a job portal to deal with the impact as tens of thousands of people may soon find themselves jobless as the crisis continues. Read more: Need A Job? Coronavirus Outbreak Has Created Opportunities In NJ

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 percent 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, according to the Department of Lavor press release.

“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.

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 the 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.

For national unemployment data, visit https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf

For archived NJ claims data, visit https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/DataDashboard.asp

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Here's what else you should know:

How It Spreads

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.

While the best way to prevent illness is to avoid virus exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention always recommends taking preventive actions to contain the spread of viruses. This includes:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.