N.J. coronavirus recovery: State recovers more than half of pandemic job losses

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during his 2021 budget address

In this Aug. 25, 2020 file photo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during his 2021 budget address at SHI Stadium at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray, File)

Updated 6:20 p.m.

New Jersey reported 973 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the state’s cumulative total to 216,994 lab-confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

Another six people died from complications of COVID-19. The state has now reported 14,408 confirmed deaths and another 1,789 probable fatalities resulting from the virus.

The state’s testing positivity rate was 4.35% on Oct. 11.

The statewide rate of transmission was 1.16, which means for every 100 people who caught the virus they spread it to another 116 residents.

Murphy extends moratorium on utility shutoffs

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday he would sign an executive order extending the moratorium on utility shut-offs through March 15.

The previous moratorium, which utility companies voluntarily agreed to early on in the pandemic as some customers struggled to pay their bills, was set to expire on Thursday.

Under the extension, households will be protected from having their electricity, gas, or water shut off for nonpayment. The extension does not apply to commercial customers.

“I do ask, though, that each resident, each utility customer please reach out to your utility. Reach out to your utility in order to set up a payment plan,” said Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the Board of Public Utilities. “These moratoriums are not free. Eventually one has to pay their bill.”

A separate moratorium blocking utility companies from shutting off internet and phone services will be extended through Nov. 15. For households that need internet connectivity for school-aged children engaged in remote learning, that date is March 15.

N.J. has recovered 56% of jobs lost during pandemic

New Jersey has regained 467,000 jobs since April, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic began thrashing the state’s economy.

That accounted for 56% of the jobs lost due to the virus and the state’s economic closures, according to a press release from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The national average for jobs recovered in the past five months was lower at 52%, the release said.

Like many states, New Jersey saw record unemployment claims during the peak of the pandemic, and it paid out $16 billion in state and federal aid to workers who lost their jobs or had their hours cut.

The new data came from estimates made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Small gatherings driving new cases

As the weather gets cooler and the winter holidays approach, health officials are warning New Jerseyans to resist the temptation to gather indoors with extended family.

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said small, family gatherings appear to be one of the drivers of new COVID-19 infections.

She pointed to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found extensive spread of coronavirus in one family.

“One adolescent with COVID-19 spread the virus to 11 other family members, including her mother, father, and grandparents,” she said.

Persichilli urged residents planning to gather with their families to host activities with people from their local area, preferably outside, and for a short period of time.

CEOs pledge ‘diverse’ hiring, procurement during economic recovery

Nine New Jersey business leaders announced Thursday that they were setting new hiring and procurement goals for their firms with an eye toward diversity, in response to the disproportionate impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on underserved communities.

In a virtual event hosted by Gov. Phil Murphy, members of the state’s CEO Council pledged to hire 30,000 New Jersey workers from historically underserved communities by the end of the decade. The same group committed to spending at least $250 million in procurement with a focus on “diverse companies” by 2025.

“No time more than right now has been more important for us to come together and be focused and pick some tangible actions,” said Mark Clouse, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company, one of the council members. “It’s two things, but it’s two things that can make a big difference.”

Murphy said the nine companies would begin work on reaching the newly announced goals right away.

The CEO Council was born out of Murphy’s Restart and Recovery Commission, which he formed to plan how the state would reboot its economy after the initial blow from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other members of the council include CEOs from BD, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Prudential Financial, PSEG, RWJ Barnabas Health, Verizon, and Zoetis. The council challenged other New Jersey companies to follow their example and set similar goals.

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