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April 09, 2020

Unemployment claims drop in Pennsylvania – but they're still among the highest in the U.S.

New Jersey saw a slight increase as COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave people out of work

Unemployment benefits Coronavirus
unemployment coronavirus GoogleMaps/StreetView

Pennsylvania saw a decline in first-time unemployment claims last week, but New Jersey had a modest increase as the coronavirus pandemic continued to leave people out of work.

First-time unemployment claims filed in Pennsylvania dropped last week as the coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the nation's workforce. 

Nationally, 6.6 million people filed for unemployment insurance last week – the same total as the previous week. More than 17 million people have filed for unemployment in the last three weeks. 

Pennsylvania's recorded 283,718 initial claims for the week ending April 4, down considerably from 404,677 the prior week, according to the Department of Labor. Only California saw a larger decrease in claims. 

But Pennsylvania still recorded the sixth-highest total nationwide. And it has received more than 1 million unemployment claims within the last three weeks. 

New Jersey received 213,897 unemployment claims, a slight increase from the previous week. More than 575,000 workers have filed for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 crisis took hold, according to the New Jersey Labor Department

Here's a breakdown of initial unemployment claims filed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the last three weeks:

Week Ending Pennsylvania New Jersey 
 April 4283,718 213,897 
 March 28 404,677 206,253
 March 21 378,908 155,454
 Total 1,067,303 575,604

New Jersey residents who have already begun collecting unemployment benefits will receive an additional $600 per week beginning April 14, state officials said Thursday. The supplemental benefit will be provided through July. 

Pennsylvania residents who qualify for unemployment benefits also will receive an additional $600 through July. The benefits are part of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump in March.

Many Pennsylvania and New Jersey workers lost their jobs – or saw their hours slashed – after the states' governors ordered all non-essential businesses to close amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

Both states are providing resources for residents who are looking for work during the outbreak or in need of unemployment benefits.

Pennsylvania’s job bank, CareerLink, lists more than 170,000 job openings, including over 44,000 in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. New Jersey created a special jobs bank for the coronavirus outbreak. It includes more than 49,000 openings across the state.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry is offering unemployment and workers' compensation benefits to all full-time and part-time workers who experience loss, including temporary loss, of their jobs due to COVID-19.

Workers may be eligible for unemployment compensation if their employer temporarily closed or went out of business, or if their hours were reduced, according to state officials. They also may be eligible if they needed to quarantine or self-isolate, or if their employer instructed them to avoid work due to fear that they could spread the virus. 

For full-time employees, unemployment benefits cover 50% of their weekly gross income. Additionally, anyone who was exposed to COVID-19 at work may be eligible for worker's compensation. Those who need to file for unemployment or workers' compensation benefits in Pennsylvania can visit the department's website for filing instructions.

New Jersey is providing financial relief through the state's earned sick leave law — which covers public health emergencies. Residents are eligible if the person's workplace or their child's school or daycare closed due to the pandemic. They also are eligible if a quarantine is recommended by health officials or if they need to take care of themselves or a family member.

These benefits are applicable to full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal workers. Employees can earn up to 40 hours of sick leave a year — or 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Any New Jersey workers needing to file for sick leave should contact their employer. 

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