Even as businesses reopen, unemployment claims increase

BY Rhonda Schaffler, Correspondent |

The latest on the unemployment front shows continued layoffs in the state. Thirty-three thousand residents filed initial unemployment claims last week. It is the second week in a row that we’ve seen an increase in the number of people filing first-time claims.

The Labor Department is still working to process more complicated claims and has a new call center up and running. Since mid-March more than 1.3 million New Jersey workers have filed for unemployment benefits, and the state has paid out more than $8 billion in benefits.

Overall unemployment remains frustratingly high, even as businesses are starting to reopen. So why is that? Eileen Kean, the state director of the National Federal of Independent Businesses, explains that many companies are unable to staff up like they did before the pandemic. She says some businesses have used up the money received through grants and loans, and have to think about laying off employees.

But one big company is hiring. Amazon is planning to open 14 delivery stations in New Jersey this year. Amazon says it will hire both full- and part-time staff, although it hasn’t yet said when the jobs will be posted.