Nearly 1 million New Jersey residents filed for unemployment benefits amid lockdown fallout
New Jersey’s unemployment numbers are skyrocketing as the fallout from government-imposed lockdowns and a stubborn virus pandemic take their toll on one of the wealthiest states in the country, forcing citizens to huddle together in long lines at local food shelters.
A shocking 930,000 residents in New Jersey have filed for unemployment benefits as of Thursday, The New York Times reported, citing state officials’ estimates. That number is up from 55,000 for the same six-week time period in 2019, forcing officials to reckon how the draconian stay-at-home orders the instituted to slow down the virus is impacting local economies.
Worse still, the actual numbers might be much higher, because the computer system that handles unemployment claims has been slowed by the wave of claims.
The numbers are a sobering reminder of how people’s lives are tied to their jobs.
“I’m just afraid I’m going to lose my house,” Jean Wickham, a casino dealer who lost her job alongside thousands of others, told TheNYT. “I feel like a failure right now.”
Recent unemployment data is a sobering reminder of the costs of lockdowns. Roughly 3.8 million new jobless claims were filed over the past week, bringing the number of unemployed up to 30 million, according to the Department of Labor. That number is larger than the entire populations of New York City and Chicago, combined.
Wickham’s nearest food shelter, Egg Harbor distribution center is providing food for 2,500 families each week, up from 1,000 before the pandemic, according to Kimberly Arroyo, a representative at the food bank.
“The need is just crazy,” she told TheNYT. “We’re seeing families that we’ve never served before.”
Protesters are demonstrating against New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s March lockdown orders even as the state is experiencing one of the highest death tolls of any other state beside New York, where more than 23,000 people have died of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, before expanding around the world.
Other states are more strict with their lockdowns. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, for instance, extended her state’s lockdown Friday until May 28 and increased her executive powers as she is able to issue executive orders that are not contingent upon legislative approval, reports show.
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Written by Chris White on May 1, 2020
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