N.J. jobless claims hit lowest since COVID-19 outbreak began

A customer walks out of a U.S. Post Office branch and under a banner advertising a job opening

In this June 4, 2020, file photo, a customer walks out of a U.S. Post Office branch and under a banner advertising a job opening, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

New Jersey’s jobless applications fell to their lowest weekly level since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

Applications last week dropped 41% compared with the week before, going down to 16,573, the department said.

Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said in a statement that the drop was encouraging, but “we’re not out of the woods.”

New Jersey’s coronavirus rate of transmission crept up over the last week, rising to nearly 1.5, up from 0.87 last month, though this week it has fallen slightly. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy warned last week that he might have to roll back reopening because of trends heading in the wrong direction.

He attributed the increase to house parties, particularly among younger people.

The virus has taken a toll on the state’s economy, with the jobless rate climbing to 16.6%, with nearly 1.5 million people seeking jobless benefits since March. The Labor Department said it paid out a total of $13.2 billion to New Jersey workers over the past five months.

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