New Jersey is no longer eligible for a state extension on jobless benefits after its three-month average unemployment rate fell below 8%, state labor officials announced on April 22.
The change will not mean a loss in benefits, nor will claimants have to do anything different, assured officials at the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
That’s because of a federal program that runs through Sept. 4 called the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
This state program, known as the High Extended Benefits, offers another seven weeks of benefits so that New Jerseyans out of work can get an added 20 weeks instead of 13 weeks.
The state’s unemployment rate was 7.7% in March and 7.8% both in February and January, spelling out an average 7.7% three-month jobless rate. That automatically triggered a move away from the state-run program and onto the federal PEUC.
“No action by claimants is needed. In essence, there will be no effect on claimants through Sept. 4, when PEUC and other pandemic rescue programs expire,” labor officials said.
All told, more than 2.1 million people in the state have filed for unemployment since March 2020, when Murphy ordered sweeping business closures and restrictions in a bid to halt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the state.
Since then, the state labor department has given out nearly $27 billion in federal and state jobless benefits. Labor officials said they’re beginning the verification process for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program for gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed workers.
They’re required to submit their proof of income in order to continue receiving benefits. The unemployment system has been plagued by delays and bureaucratic snags, leaving many residents going weeks or months without a check and with no luck getting answers or updates.
“New Jersey is leading the way on many fronts in getting benefits to workers, but we know this is no solace to those waiting for a determination or a better understanding of the status of their claim,” NJDOLWD Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said in a statement. “This continues to motivate our teams to try so hard to determine that workers are eligible, and to deliver benefits as quickly as possible to them.”
But weekly claims have nosedived in recent weeks, signifying a mass return to work. Federal labor data showed that 9,529 people filed for unemployment the week ending April 17, down from 11,346 claims the week before.
Meanwhile, the state added 10,700 jobs to the private sector workforce, and 20,800 jobs in March.