More than 1 million New Jerseyans are out of work due to coronavirus crisis

More than 88,000 New Jersey workers filed for unemployment insurance benefits last week, bringing the state’s total to more than 1 million claims since the pandemic hit the state.

The 88,326 new claims for the week ending May 2 bring the state’s total to 1,018,785 unemployment claims from mid March through last week. More than 640,000 New Jerseyans are currently receiving benefits.

The new claims filed last week show an increase over the week prior, when 71,966 workers filed for unemployment. To date, workers have been frustrated by a state system that’s caused them to wait weeks longer than normal to receive benefits.

Gov. Phil Murphy, acknowledging the backlog that caused some workers to have to wait up to six weeks to receive benefits, said the state should be able to work through the unprocessed claims by early next week ## ## .

In a statement Thursday, Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro Angelo said the labor department was working to get payments to workers as quickly as possible.

“As we pass the milestone of 1 million claims filed a number so staggering, we never thought we would come close to reaching it in such a compressed period of time I’m incredibly proud of the tireless work of our staff to get nearly $2 billion into the bank accounts of so many New Jersey workers, to support their families,” Asaro Angelo said.

The labor department said Thursday that it’s currently paying out $171.7 million weekly to New Jerseyans.

Unemployment claim data is used by economists as a barometer of the coronavirus’s economic toll. This latest report comes as at least 8,549 people have died and nearly 132,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus statewide.

The total number of people out of work, though, is likely higher because some workers who aren’t eligible, and those who are stuck in the backlog, aren’t counted.

And economists have begun to worry that some of those workers could be out of jobs permanently, as the pandemic forces businesses to close.

In recent weeks, the state has seen the number of new out of work residents claiming unemployment benefits begin to level off, though the number of workers receiving benefits continues to grow. The state hit a peak the week ending April 4, when 214,836 workers filed for benefits in a single week.

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