Nearly $800 million in state and federal unemployment benefits were paid out in New Jersey last week, according to weekly jobless reports issued today that also show around 120,000 more residents filed new claims for benefits.

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development says 69,689 people filed new unemployment claims in the week ending May 9, the fewest in eight weeks but similar to the levels of the past two weeks. Separately, the federal labor department says 51,234 filed for "pandemic unemployment assistance."

Overall, the reports show that more than 710,000 people are receiving regular unemployment benefits in the state and that nearly 278,000 more who aren’t normally eligible for benefits have filed for payments through the temporary PUA program.

 

The state has been trying to work through the backlog of people seeking PUA benefits and says around 139,000 additional self-employed workers, gig-economy workers, independent contractors and freelancers were made eligible this week and can start claiming benefits Sunday.

“The USDOL has strict rules in place that we must follow when handling a claim in order to prevent fraud. Unfortunately, this also can lengthen the time it takes for claimants to receive benefits,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “We are doing everything we can, working within federal guidelines, to get benefits to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. We can only do so much without jeopardizing billions of dollars of funding.”

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According to the federal Department of Labor, the PUA applicants in New Jersey include 150,500 receiving benefits as of the week ending April 25, 76,100 who filed new claims in the week ending May 2 and 51,234 filing in the week ending May 9.

Nationally, almost 5.4 million people are receiving benefits through the temporary programs. More than 20 states haven’t yet set up their PUA programs.

Nearly 1.1 million people in New Jersey who have been laid off or furloughed have filed claims for traditional unemployment benefits over the last eight weeks.

The final numbers for the previous week, ending May 2, showed New Jersey had recorded the nation’s third-largest one-week increase in initial claims.

The state told the federal labor department that included layoffs in the accommodation and food services, administrative, support, waste management, and remediation services, health care and social assistance, professional, scientific, and technical services, and educational services industries.

In its announcement, the state labor department said data shows workers in casinos, retail, food service, restaurants and airlines hit the hardest by the pandemic.

Around 17.7% of people in New Jersey covered by the insured unemployment program are currently receiving benefits. That is above the national average but not the highest in the country. Sixteen states had higher rates, as of the week ending April 25.

Nationally, 36.5 million people filed new claims for unemployment benefits in the last eight weeks.

 

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.