More than 1.13 million new unemployment claims have been received by the New Jersey Department of Labor since March 15. New claims slowed last week to 42,000, according to data released by the agency on Thursday.
Officials said 139,000 federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims were shifted to payable status last week, and workers began reviewing tens of thousands of older claims for extended benefits.
The Department of Labor has been criticized for its failure to process applications and thousands or residents across the state have been unable to talk to a representative to get help on their claims. They aren’t even put on hold, but instead are disconnected when they try to call. Gov. Phil Murphy has defended the department and asked residents to be patient. Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo has praised the work of his department and defended its performance.
“We’re very pleased to see the balance begin to shift this week with the number of new claims trending downward and the number being processed curving upward,” Asaro-Angelo said in a written statement about this past week’s statistics. “Our only focus remains getting benefits into the bank accounts of every worker as quickly as possible.”
Officials said that the department stepped up its communications with claimants this week, letting many of them know by email and text message the status of their application and when they could expect to begin claiming benefits.
Workers are beginning to notify residents who have exhausted their 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and are now eligible for federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which could extent their benefit eligibility for an additional 13 weeks. The first group of these workers will be able to certify for benefits on Sunday. Officials said the process will be ongoing for a few weeks.
For the week ending May 16, new initial unemployment claims were 42,365, the lowest weekly total of new claims since mid-March. The weekly totals of new unemployment claims for the nine weeks since the COVID-19 outbreak are:
|March 29-April 4||214,836|
|April 26-May 2||88,326|
Eligible claimants have received $3.4 billion in benefits to date: $1.4 billion in state unemployment payments since mid-March, $1.9 billion in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payments and $134 million in PUA payments.
The breakdown of weekly payments (in millions):
|Week||NJ UI Payment||FPUC Payment||PUA Payment|
|March 29-April 3||$89.8||X||X|
|April 26-May 2||$171.7||$291.1||$27.1|
FPUC and PUA are new federal programs authorized by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. FPUC provides an additional $600 weekly benefit to anyone collecting unemployment for weeks ending April 4 through July 25. PUA which provides benefits not just to newly eligible populations such as self-employed workers, independent contractors or those who do not have enough recent earnings to qualify for regular unemployment benefits, but also for newly qualifying reasons such as being unable to work because due to caring for others or for their own COVID-19 illness.
For more information on state or federal unemployment programs, visit myunemployment.nj.gov.
For more information on benefit extensions, visit: https://myunemployment.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/apply/extensions/
Claimants collecting unemployment must certify for benefits each week to continue to receive payments. Information on certifying for unemployment can be found here: