Unemployment claims in New Jersey soared to 205,000 last week – and hit 6.6 million for all Americans – both setting new records as the COVID-19 pandemic leads to mass business closures and layoffs.
During the week of March 21 to 28, a total of 205,515 New Jerseyans filed for unemployment, according to data released Thursday morning from the U.S. Department of Labor. During the same week in March 2019, 6,894 New Jersey residents filed unemployment applications, according to the BLS.
Last week, a then-record 155,815 state residents filed claims—a 1,546 percent increase over the same week in 2019.
“The COVID-19 virus continues to impact the number of initial claims,” the DOL report reads. “Nearly every state providing comments cited the COVID-19 virus
Over the last month, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the mass closures of tens of thousands of “non-essential retail,” which includes gyms, casinos and theaters, bars and dine-in restaurants, malls, amusement parks, salons and barbershops, and any mass gatherings.
As the summer season looms, and the notion becomes highly likely that these restrictions will continue well into May, fears are have risen that the multibillion-dollar tourism and summer season industry along the Jersey Shore could be slammed by the outbreak and social distancing guidelines.
Proponents argue that this kind of “social distancing” deprives the virus of any potential new hosts. As of Wednesday afternoon, the COVID-19 outbreak total reached 22,255 cases in the state and claimed 355 lives.
“States continued to identify increases related to the services industries broadly, again led by accommodation and food services,” the DOL report adds. “However, state comments indicated a wider impact across industries. Many states continued to cite the health care and social assistance, and manufacturing industries, while an increasing number of states identified the retail and wholesale trade and construction industries.”
State and federal agencies are rolling out a myriad of grants, loans and other aid programs to help many of these businesses slammed by the outbreak.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has $40 million in grants, loans and loan guarantees, including a $5 million grant program, where applications will go live 9 a.m. Friday. With upwards of 2,000 applicants expected, that pot of money could dry out quickly, suggested NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan.
Meanwhile, the federal “Coronavirus Ad, Relief, and Economic Security Act” injects $260 billion into the federal unemployment system, to be given out to cash-strapped states. Workers who have lost their jobs will receive an additional $600 a week in benefits, for four additional months, and self-employed and “gig economy” freelance workers will now be eligible for benefits.
Those extra $600 payments will likely go out starting the week of April 6 for people who have already filed and will be separate from base level benefits, according to New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.