Weekly jobs data indicate New Jersey’s employment situation continued to stabilize last week, when initial claims fell to a nine-week low and continued claims declined – substantially, in fact – for the first time since the pandemic struck.

The weekly report on unemployment claims from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development shows 42,365 claims were filed for the week ending May 16. It had been nearly 70,000 a week earlier and nearly 215,000 at its peak in early April.

The number of new claims is finally below what had been New Jersey’s peak since record-keeping started in 1987, the two weeks after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. But it also brings the nine-week total of job losses and furloughs in the state to 1.13 million.

“We’re very pleased to see the balance begin to shift this week with the number of new claims trending downward and the number being processed curving upward,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “Our only focus remains getting benefits into the bank accounts of every worker as quickly as possible.”

Just over $3.4 billion in jobless benefits have been paid out in New Jersey since the pandemic began, including $710 million in state and federal benefits last week. The payments include $1.38 billion in regular state benefits, $1.9 billion in extra federal benefits that run through July 31 and $134 million in federal benefits to self-employed workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor weekly report shows that for the week prior, the one ending May 2, New Jersey’s insured unemployment rate of 17.8% ranked 11th highest among the states.

However, that rate appears likely to decline in next week’s report. In the week ending May 9, the initial number of New Jerseyans receiving regular employment benefits fell by around 113,000, the most in the country, reflecting an unemployment rate of 15%.

The regular weekly unemployment numbers don’t include the gig workers receiving pandemic unemployment assistance, a temporary program set up through the federal CARES Act to assist workers who aren’t otherwise eligible for benefits.

Last week, there were 34,000 initial PUA claims registered in New Jersey, down from 51,234 a week earlier. There are around 262,400 continued PUA claims through which people are getting benefits.

Nationally, another 2.4 million initial claims for benefits were filed last week, bringing the total since mid-March to 38.6 million.

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