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The New Jersey Department of Labor has already seen record numbers of unemployment filings due to closings related to COVID-19, and is bracing for Thursday’s report on the latest numbers as it beefs up computer systems and staggers times for filing.

The numbers spiked for the first time in the week ending March 14, a spokeswoman said, even as casinos and other large employers have kept workers on the payroll — for now. Numbers for the week ending March 21 will be released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The state saw a 20.6% increase in filings for the week ending March 14, compared to the same week in 2019, said spokeswoman Angela Delli-Santi.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and public utilities’ promises not to suspend service on gas, electricity and water, should help stabilize life for those laid off, said Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, both D-Atlantic.

“At a time when everyone is asked to stay at home in the interest of public health, there’s no reason we should remove people from their living situations,” Armato said.

And U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, said a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package includes increasing the length of unemployment and hiking maximum payments by $600 a week for anyone laid off due to the virus.Van Drew said he supports the package, on which the House and Senate were expected to vote late Wednesday.

Delli-Santi said the state has taken steps to improve its systems so it can process even larger numbers of unemployment applications.

“The record number of claims has placed stresses on our old systems, but our IT Department added capacity, thus allowing us to process more claims per day,” Delli-Santi said. “We also instituted a staggered system of certifying for benefits based on Social Security number.

“During the week ending March 14, the increase in initial claims are clearly attributable to impacts from the COVID-19 virus,” the U.S. Department of Labor said in its report on the week. “A number of states specifically cited COVID-19 related layoffs, while many states reported increased layoffs in service-related industries broadly and in the accommodation and food services industries specifically, as well as in the transportation and warehousing industry, whether COVID-19 was identified directly or not.”

To allow more filers better online access, the department is asking applicants not to check their claim status once they have filed for benefits and received a confirmation email.

“Their application is being processed as quickly as possible — checking status could prevent fellow New Jerseyans from accessing the system to file new claims,” Delli-Santi said.

Initial claims filed for the week ending March 14 were 9,467, compared with 7,853 new claims filed the week ending March 14, 2019.

For the week ending March 7, 2020, new filings were 7,996. That compares with 7,990 initial filings during the same week in 2019.

Contact: 609-272-7219

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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