TOMS RIVER, NJ – Unemployment is soaring again as restaurants across New Jersey who re-hired many of their laid off indoor dining workers are now sending those employees back to the unemployment line. Governor Murphy last week squashed a plan to reopen indoor dining which lead to thousands of restaurants pulling workers off the unemployment line to work their in their establishments over the Fourth of July weekend.
Last Monday, Murphy reversed course after workers had been rehired, trained to work in a COVID-19 environment and after restaurant owners sank thousands of dollars into inventory, food, furniture, safety gear and more.
More than 47,000 New Jersey workers filed initial unemployment claims during the week ending July 4, a 70 percent jump from the prior week, with two employee groups – furloughed state workers and those laid off when the school year ended in June – making up much of the spike according to the state.
Last week’s initial claim total is the highest number of single-week applicants the Department of Labor and Workforce Development has recorded in eight weeks. During the week ending May 9, nearly 70,000 initial claims were filed.
The department sent $843 million into the hands of claimants during a week that was shortened because of the July 4 holiday. Total payments reaching New Jersey workers topped $9.9 billion since mid-March.
“The number of people in need is staggering. We’ve had 1.35 million applicants since mid March; 1.2 million of them have met the earnings requirements to receive benefits, with 96 percent of them having received payment. We won’t let up until every claim has received a determination, every question has been answered and every claimant has been served,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.
Also last week, the Labor Department began offering 20 weeks of extended unemployment to New Jersey workers who have exhausted their state and federal jobless benefits, bringing to 59 the maximum number of weeks of benefits-eligible claimants may receive. Claimants are automatically enrolled into extended benefits as their federal extension ends. They do not need to contact an agent or reapply.