New Jersey Unemployment claims jumped more than 1,500% last week after businesses were ordered closed in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported receiving 155,815 unemployment claims for the week ending March 21, more than three times as many as the previous high of roughly 46,000 following Superstorm Sandy.
“We understand the anxiety, uncertainty and fear out there among residents who have been laid off suddenly or seen their hours reduced,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said. “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.”
In response, the state has suspended work search requirements for unemployment benefits and launched an online jobs portal to connect residents impacted by the coronavirus-fueled economic downturn with businesses that remain open during the crisis.
Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the state’s non-essential businesses closed on Saturday and mandated that those who can work from home do so.
Last weeks unemployment figures represent a massive spike from earlier this month.
During the week ending March 14, 9,467 New Jerseyans filed unemployment claims.
That figure was already 18% higher than it was at the same time last year.
Still, state officials say New Jersey’s unemployment fund is well-positioned to deal with the crisis, and the state will likely extend unemployment benefits past the current 26-week period if needed.
“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,” Asaro-Angelo said. “Our unemployment fund has a healthy surplus, thanks to our employers and employees, and we are able to meet this challenge head on.”