New week-to-week jobless claims in New Jersey amid the pandemic nearly halved as the state’s unemployment rate stubbornly hovers just below 8%, according to data from the federal and state labor departments.
For the week ending April 10, there were 10,743 people in the state who filed for unemployment, a roughly 45% drop from the 19,875 people who filed claims the prior week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
New Jersey’s unemployment rate for March clocked in at 7.7%, a rate it’s been at since last year. The unemployment rate was 7.8% in both February and January, and 7.7% in December 2020.
All told, more than 2.1 million people in the state have filed for unemployment since March 2020, when Gov. Phil 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 has given out $26.5 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits, with the unemployment rate surging to all-time record highs in the past 13 months. More than 100,000 people in the state have been without work that entire time, according to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
State labor officials estimated that this latest drop in new claims was driven mainly by schools reopening after spring break.
Angela Delli-Santi, a spokesperson for the NJDOLWD, said that school employees typically file for unemployment benefits while they are out of work during that spring break period – “kind of like being furloughed.”
“While the number of people filing new claims for unemployment has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, the numbers are thankfully much lower than what we were witnessing a year ago,” reads an April 15 statement from state Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.
Data released April 15 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the state added 20,800 new jobs to the private sector in March, up from 10,700 jobs added in February and a minuscule 900 jobs added to the state’s workforce in January.
Leisure and hospitality accounted for more than half of those new jobs in February, making up 6,400 of new job positions.
They made up 5,700 of the new jobs in March, as indoor dining expanded from 35% to 50% capacity, and as warmer weather allowed more patrons to dine outdoors. Education and health service made up 3,800 of the new jobs added in March, followed by trade, transportation and utilities, which accounted for 3,300 of those new jobs.
“Retail sales grew a truly staggering amount in March, industrial production continues to expand steadily, and new claims for unemployment insurance declined sharply in the most recent week,” said former chief state economist Charles Steindel in an April 15 statement from the conservative think tank Garden State Initiative.
State finances are expected to be flush with cash for at least the next 15 months, with pent up consumer demand slated to trigger an explosion of economic activity in the upcoming weeks and months.