The number of new jobless claims filed by New Jersey residents shrunk by half last week compared with a week earlier to around 72,000, according to a weekly Labor Department report. That brings total new filings for unemployment benefits in the state since mid-March to over 930,000.

It’s the smallest jump in six weeks, since the coronavirus-related business closures and stay-at-home orders were imposed – but also the sixth largest jump in more than 33 years of record-keeping at the state level.

Around 622,000 New Jersey residents were receiving unemployment benefits for the week ending April 18, which amounted to 15.5% of workers covered by unemployment insurance.

Roughly 200,000 applicants who have not yet received benefits are self-employed, independent contractors or those who do not have enough recent earnings to qualify for regular unemployment benefits, according to the state labor department. But they are likely eligible under the CARES Act and those payments will begin flowing on Friday.

“We know that people are anxious to receive these benefits — and we want to get benefits out the door as quickly as possible — but we had to build from scratch a process to determine eligibility, protect claimants’ personal information, prevent fraud and distribute these new benefits,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.

Since the start of March, the state has paid out around $1.4 billion in unemployment benefits to laid-off and furloughed workers in New Jersey, including $727 million in state benefits and $690 million in supplemental federal payments.

Nationally, another 3.8 million people filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week. More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the last six weeks.

The only states with larger improvements than New Jersey in the number of new claims in the week ending April 25 were California, where it dropped by around 200,000, and Connecticut and Florida, where the change were roughly the same as the 69,122 in New Jersey.

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