TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – While the rate of COVID-19 infections continues to drop in New Jersey, the economic toll is growing as now 1 in 7 working-age adults in the state are seeking unemployment benefits from a system crippled by the massive backlog of claims.

In April, the state saw a loss of 757,700 jobs, said Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.

There have been 1.1 million initial unemployment claims since March 15.

“Just 10 months ago, the governor reported the lowest unemployment rate since record-keeping began in 1976,” he said Thursday. “Now we’re reporting the highest as we find our state at 15.3% unemployed in the Garden State, a level not seen since February of 1992.”

MORE: New Jersey Residents Exasperated With Effort To Try To Get Unemployment Benefits: ‘I’ve Burned Through All Of My Life Savings’

More than $3.4 billion in benefits have been paid out to workers so far, including $1.4 billion in regular unemployment insurance payments and $2 billion in federal assistance.

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“We aren’t just talking about numbers,” said Asaro-Angelo. “We hear the impact reflected in the stories of our claimants, hard-working New Jerseyans using unemployment for the first time, and those who have exhausted their benefits and need a little more help.”

An estimated 70,000 people were already out of work before coronavirus hit New Jersey. The Labor Department will begin to notify these people this week about a 13-week extension to their support under the Federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

MORE: Unemployed New Jersey Residents Trying To Get Benefits: ‘The System Is Messed Up. They Need To Improve It’

“Many of these workers were unemployed before the pandemic began, and the situations obviously made their job search exponentially more difficult,” said Asaro-Angelo.

“We are carefully watching every indicator that could tell us when it’s OK for more people to get back to work, and as we hit those marks, we will continue with a responsible and deliberate restart,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.


New Jersey saw a rise in 1,304 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the state during the previous 24 hours, bringing New Jersey’s total to 151,472 cases since the first confirmed test was tracked on March 4. In terms of fatalities, an additional 98 people died from COVID-19-related illness, bringing the state’s toll to 10,843 confirmed deaths.

New Jerseyans looking for unemployment help can look on for additional help, while more than 52,000 jobs are listed on the state’s jobs site at

  1. Feeling hopeless says:

    Filed for unemployment on March 31st and still pending. Unable to certify benefits and unable to get through to NJ Unemployment office. Unsure what to do next. It’s so frustrating

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