New Jersey’s unemployment rate continues to rise ever-higher, reaching 10.2% for the month of November, the state Department of Labor announced. This represents a 2.2% increase in unemployment from October, when the rate was 8%, which itself was 1.3% higher than the September unemployment rate of 6.7%. The most recent New Jersey unemployment rate is nearly 4 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate of 6.7%, which saw a small fall from October.
There is no denying that the brunt of the blame for these dismal numbers lies squarely on the shoulders of the devastation wreaked upon New Jersey by COVID-19. Prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in March, unemployment in the Garden State was a low 3.8%, which represented one of the best unemployment rates in the United States. The current state unemployment figure of 10.2% is considerably better than the peak figure of 16.6% in June, but the slow rise of the rate will cause concern among policymakers and job-seekers alike. Although Governor Murphy recently passed a bill that extended unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of state residents, hundreds of thousands of additional residents are primed to lose unemployment benefits unless Congress passes a new stimulus bill.
Since March, New Jersey has paid over $20 billion in unemployment benefits to over 1.86 million claimants. This is the most the state has ever paid out in a 39-week period. “When we began the year at almost full employment, it was unfathomable we would be nearing year’s end having given out more than $20 billion in unemployment benefits to workers in need,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said. “We are now getting ready to distribute additional aid, and are hopeful Congress will act.”
There is, as always, some degree of silver lining. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently announced that the state is not currently planning to follow in the footsteps of New York and Philadelphia by suspending indoor dining. While detractors worry that this could contribute to the state’s already-surging COVID cases, it will surely save a number of jobs in the restaurant industry. Additionally, the rollout of the 95% effective Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has begun, and though widespread herd immunity is still a ways away, the end to the pandemic and all of its economic ruin is in sight.