NJ unemployment soars as rate of new COVID-19 infections drops

KYW Staff
May 21, 2020 - 1:44 pm

UPDATED: 3:45 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development had somber news Thursday about job losses in the state. The department released a report showing a loss of 757,700 jobs in April, most as a result of restrictions on business during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The state’s unemployment rate has soared to 15.3% — from 3.8% in March — a measure not seen since February 1992.  

“This monthly jobs dropoff was not unexpected, due to the current public health emergency,” noted Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo.

New Jersey has had about 1.1 million claims since the outbreak began to ramp up in mid-March, according to the department. So far, $3.4 billion has been paid out in jobless benefits, the statement said.

At his daily coronavirus press briefing, addressing the frustrated unemployment assistance applicants who have yet to see any money materialize, Gov. Phil Murphy reiterated a promise.

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“We are 100% committed to getting you the support you need,” he said. “Every New Jerseyan who has applied for unemployment benefits will receive them.”

Murphy blamed some of the unemployment backlog on staff cuts at the labor department during Gov. Chris Christie's administration.

The governor reported 1,304 new cases of COVID-19, for a statewide total of 151,472 cases, and 98 new deaths, for a statewide total of 10,843 deaths, noting a significant downturn in new cases from the peak just a few weeks ago.

According to the U.S. Labor Department, the national unemployment rate reached 14.7% in April — the highest since the Great Depression.

The true rate must be even higher. Millions of Americans weren’t officially counted as unemployed because they weren't looking for a new job, presumably because nearly everything was shut down anyway.

The Labor Department said more than 2.4 million people filed for jobless aid last week. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits in the two months since the coronavirus took hold in the U.S. has swelled to a staggering 38.6 million.

The continuing rise shows that, even though all 50 states have begun reopening, the job market has yet to snap back, and the outbreak is still doing damage to businesses and destroying livelihoods.

Murphy said the overall trend lines are pointing in the right direction, but it's still too soon to ease any more business restrictions.

“While we're trying to move as quickly as we can, we're moving as safely as we must,” he added.

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KYW Newsradio's Mike DeNardo and Eric Walter, as well as the Associated Press, contributed to this report.