TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey is a state of 9 million inhabitants and when you remove those under the age of 18 and those over the age of 65, that’s a workforce eligible population of 4.45 million. According to figures released by the New Jersey Department of Labor in the past year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Phil Murphy’s extended shutdowns and restrictions on nearly all industries, 1,985,000 at one point or another were without work, collecting unemployment benefits.
Today, nearly one year after the pandemic began and as many of Murphy’s restrictions on small businesses continues, a staggering 339,000 people remain without a job in the Garden State, an unemployment rate of 7.6%.
In July, before Murphy reopened some parts of the New Jersey economy, 651,000 people were collecting unemployment. Things began getting better in the summer as the unemployment rate dropped from 14.2% to 6.7% in September. Then, in November, when the governor began his second wave of business restrictions, the rate shot back up to 10%.
On Friday, the governor tried to shine a line on New Jersey’s unemployment pandemic, announcing new unemployment claims have dropped from 16,000 in the last week to 14,000.
“So for last week, the department has reported a total of 14,606 initial claims for unemployment benefits. This is a drop of just over 2,000, Rob, I believe from the prior week and our third consecutive weekly decrease, but God knows for the folks who are there, they’re not a number. It’s their lives, it’s their challenges, so 14,606 is still 14,606 too many,” Murphy said.
Get this, because of the Murphy shutdowns, 200,000 people who were unemployed at the start of the pandemic have since had to reopen their claims.
“Throughout the entire pandemic, going back to last March, the Labor Department has received 1,985,000 applications for unemployment and get this: included in that number is more than 200,000 of our fellow New Jerseyans who have had to reopen their claim because they lost work for a second time within the past year; staggering number. Eligible claimants have received, on average, $15,167 in benefits,” Murphy added.
To make matters worse for those still without jobs, 75,000 residents on unemployment whose original benefits ended are now without benefits due to a lapse.
“Many claimants are also transitioning seamlessly to the 11-week extension of benefits authorized under the Continued Assistance Act. But as we are aware — and we are — roughly 75,000 residents whose original benefits have ended are experiencing a lapse and are waiting for their benefits to restart,” Murphy added. “This is due to the need, and we talked about this the other day, a lot of what we’ve seen over the past, really now nine months, has been unique to the individuals but when there’s a big shift in policy, especially from the feds, it requires a system shift. This is the 75,000 who are still waiting is due to the need for our Department of Labor to reprogram its systems and administer the new federal relief.”