N.J. unemployment claims on the rise as 500K set to lose benefits at end of month

Posted Dec 10, 2020

After nearly two months of declining claims, New Jersey is seeing another rise in unemployment filings as some federal benefits are set to expire.

More than 17,000 new unemployment claims were filed for the week ending Dec. 4, the Labor Department said. That’s a 26% increase from the week prior, which also saw a spike in claims due to schools being closed for Thanksgiving break.

The Labor Department did not say what could be causing the increase in applications, but noted the national increase was 31.9%.

The growing number of applications comes as nearly 500,000 New Jersey workers could lose their unemployment benefits Dec. 26 if Congress doesn’t pass a stimulus bill that includes relief for unemployed workers.

About 312,000 residents are receiving PUA, which provides benefits to gig workers and freelancers, and 175,000 are receiving PUEC, which provides an extra 13 weeks of unemployment insurance, the Labor Department said in a statement.

“We know how much this is going to hurt New Jersey families just after the holidays, so we remain hopeful new federal legislation will be enacted to provide much-needed relief to our state’s workers and small businesses without delay,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said in a statement.

An estimated 4.4 million Americans have already exhausted their benefits, and 12 million workers will lose their benefits without a second stimulus or extension of unemployment programs, according to progressive think tank The Century Foundation.

Federal law prohibits New Jersey from paying benefits to workers for weeks beyond Dec. 26, and all weeks prior to Dec. 26 will continue to be paid.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law Friday extending eligibility for the 20-week extension, which will make 2,000 claimants eligible for the extension. People who meet the requirements and have already exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits and 13 weeks of additional benefits under the CARES Act will be automatically rolled over.

Since the pandemic shuttered businesses and pushed residents to stay home nine months ago, more than 1.8 million New Jersey workers have filed for unemployment benefits. Of those, roughly 1.5 million were eligible, with 96% having received at least one payment.

However, claimants are still awaiting backpay from several months ago, after the influx of hundreds of thousands of claims led to a massive backlog the Labor Department continues to work through.

The agency has paid out $19.7 billion since the pandemic began nine months ago, including $230 million in the last week.

New Jersey workers who are eligible for unemployment may receive 60 percent of their wages, up to $713. Although the $600 supplement expired, the Labor Department continues to issue those payments for eligible claims for weeks ending April 4 through July 25.

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-12-11 02:49:51 -0800