New Jersey now 4th in the nation for new unemployment claims

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At the coronavirus pandemiccontinues to get worse, New Jersey workers are taking some of the biggest hits in the nation: The Garden State currently ranks fourth for the number of workers who filed for unemployment benefits last week. .

For the week ending March 21, nearly 156,000 New Jersey workers filed for unemployment insurance. Prior to that week, 108,091 people were receiving unemployment benefits.

Pennsylvania, California and Ohio all rank ahead of New Jersey. Pennsylvania led the nation with nearly 379,000 unemployment insurance claims in a single week. Ohio and California had about 188,000 and 187,000 claims, respectively, last week.

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Last week’s numbers dwarf those of the previous two weeks in New Jersey.

For the week ending March 7, nearly 8,000 workers filed for unemploymentin New Jersey, placing the state sixth in the nation for number of unemployment insurance claims. The following week, New Jersey had more than 9,000 people file for unemployment, placing the state seventh, and marking an 18% increase in claims.

And for the most recent week, ending March 21, 155,815 workers filed for unemployment, placing New Jersey fourth. The U.S. Department of Labor initially ranked New Jersey fifth but state-adjusted figures placed it fourth, above Texas.

That jump represents an incredible 1,546% increase in unemployment claims, the state’s department of labor said Thursday, marking the highest number of single-week claims in memory.

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The figures do not reflect the number of workers in the so-called gig economywho have lost work due to the pandemic. While some workers for companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart are able to receive two-weeks pay if they get sick, those workers and other independent contractors aren’t eligible for unemploymentinsurance.

Unemployment claims are spiking across the country, too. Figures reported by the U.S. Dept. of Labor on Thursday showed that nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week, when adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.

“This is unheard of,” Kevin Stapleton, an analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor, said. “States almost across the board have been handling claims loads they’ve never seen in such a short period of time.”

For New Jersey, the jump in claims is due to mass layoffs caused by COVID-19, the state reported. The illness has caused layoffs in the accommodation, food services and educational service industries, as well as in the transportation and warehousing sector, the state reported to the federal government.

Murphy last week ordered all “non-essential” businesses to shutter. Some businesses in the warehousing and transportation sector are allowed to remain open but only if they are supplying essential goods. In a statement Thursday, New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo tried to ease residents’ worries.

“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,” he said. “Our unemployment fund has a healthy surplus, thanks to our employers and employees, and we are able to meet this challenge head on.”


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J. Dale Shoemaker is a reporter on the data & investigations team. He can be reached at jshoemaker@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JDale_Shoemaker.