TRENTON (CBSNewYork) – New jobless numbers show the toll on the economy is deepening.

The Labor Department says nearly three million Americans filed unemployment claims last week. That brings the nationwide total to 36 million since the pandemic erupted in March.

Hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey are still waiting for financial relief. Many families are now running out of money.

“The system is messed up. They need to improve it,” one New Jersey woman told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

New Jersey residents angered by and scared of an unemployment claim system they call glitchy and unreliable includes Kelvan Jackson. CBS2’s Dave Carlin tagged along with the unemployed warehouse worker as he shopped at a grocery near Trenton. He says his unemployment check started arriving more than a month after he signed up and, because he worries they might lapse, he’s extremely frugal.

“I got what I needed,” he said. “If I don’t use it sparingly it’s not going to last. I spare it.”

He says he bought himself asparagus and rice and “that’s all I need for now.”

The number of New Jerseyans applying for unemployment continues to rise. There were roughly 70,000 more last week alone.

“How often are people coming up to you about the unemployment system and do you have anyone in your circle in your family or friends struggling with the system is so many others are?” Carlin asked Gov. Phil Murphy.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“I’ve gotten calls at home, I get texts, I get calls on my own phone, people in every ‘Ask the Governor, ‘every interview every press conference, we get it,” Murphy said.

There are an estimated 1.1 million New Jerseyans who’ve applied, with about 725,000 collecting the unemployment benefits. But what about the rest who wait and wait? Carlin asked New Jersey’s Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.

“When people get a check one week but then go three weeks without one, is that something in the way they’re filling out the form or is it something in the bones? Is there a glitch in the system?” Carlin asked.

“If someone’s gotten benefits already and they don’t get them the next week, there is no glitch in the system,” said Asaro-Angelo. “That means one of the questions was answered adversely.”

Complaints are rolling in that the system needs more staffing more agents and less recordings, but New Jersey leaders say that’s tricky.

“The claims agent cannot be picked up off the street,” said Asaro-Angelo.

He said since mid-March, New Jersey has paid out roughly $2.7 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits. He repeated again they will do better.

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