The number of New Jerseyans filing new claims for unemployment benefits surged to another new record last week, topping 206,000 due to the novel coronavirus and associated shutdowns of many businesses.

The 206,253 claims reported by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development for the week ending March 28 was the eighth highest among states. Over the last two weeks, more than 362,000 workers in New Jersey have filed new claims for jobless benefits.

Total employment in New Jersey for February had been a seasonally adjusted 4,243,900, which would indicate that roughly 8.5% of workers in New Jersey have filed new unemployment claims in just the past two weeks.

There are inconsistencies in how the March 21 data is now being reported. The state labor department continues to cite the 155,815 new claims that had been initially reported. The U.S. Department of Labor now records the number as 115,815.

Either is still far beyond the previous one-week record surge of around 46,000 in the weeks after Superstorm Sandy, and both have been eclipsed by last week’s number.

The state says an analysis of the two weeks of claims shows the hardest-hit employees worked in food services and drinking establishments, with 16.5% of claims; ambulatory health care services such as doctors’ and dentists’ offices, with 11% of claims; and administrative and support services, with 7% of claims.

"We know a lot of people are hurting, so we are grateful to announce that financial help is on the way for workers upended because of this public health crisis,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said.


The numbers probably continue to understate the actual unemployment numbers as many people continue to have problems accessing the state’s phone and online systems. State officials have said claims will be backdated and that no benefits will be forfeited.

People who are unemployed will be receiving an additional $600 per week in benefits through the $2 trillion coronavirus response law enacted last week by the federal government, through July 31. Self-employed people are newly eligible for benefits.

The state labor department said the $600 in supplemental benefits is expected to arrive beginning next week and that it will be issued separately from regular unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits have also been extended an additional 13 weeks, to 39 weeks of benefits, by the federal coronavirus law. The extension applies to people who were already out of work before the virus hit.

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Nationally, the number of initial unemployment claims was nearly 6.65 million, up 3.34 million from the previous week’s all-time record.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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