The New Jersey Department of Labor saw a post-holiday increase in unemployment claims last week that was driven by seasonal workers. Officials also received word from the U.S. Department of Labor that there would be no lapse in COVID-related federal benefits available through the new stimulus bill signed the day after pandemic programs expired.
New weekly unemployment claims for the week ending Dec. 26 totaled 20,460, an increase of 2,849 claims over the previous week. The total number of New Jersey workers applying for benefits since mid-March is now almost 1.9 million people. Nearly $20.5 billion has been distributed. Officials said that for those currently claiming benefits, most have received more than $10,000 in benefits, and roughly a third have received more than $20,000 in benefits.
The enactment of the Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act of 2020 on Sunday means residents collecting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) are eligible to continue receiving benefits for 11 additional weeks, through March 13, and should continue to certify for benefits weekly. The supplemental benefit known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) was also renewed for 11 weeks, through March 13, but at a rate of $300 per week. The original program expired in July.
The PUA and PEUC programs were authorized by Congress under the CARES Act through Dec. 26, and then were extended under the Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act through March 13 of 2021. The maximum eligibility for PUA is now 57 weeks, and PEUC now provides up to 24 weeks of additional benefits to those who exhaust 26 weeks of state unemployment. The Extended benefits add a final 20 weeks of benefits. The renewed FPUC benefit is a $300 per week unemployment supplement for anyone collecting unemployment in any amount. Lost Wages Assistance was funded by FEMA and provided six weeks of supplemental benefits to people unemployed Aug. 1 through Sept. 5 due to COVID.
The Department of Labor also reported on Thursday that the minimum wage in New Jersey is set to increase to $12 per hour on Jan. 1, part of a multi-year legislative phase-in to a $15 minimum wage for most workers.
Week-by-week totals of new unemployment claims:
Breakdown of weekly benefits payments to eligible New Jersey workers: