TRENTON — New Jersey saw the lowest weekly total of people seeking unemployment benefits since the coronavirus outbreak struck, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

New applications fell to 34,410 last week, down from about 42,000 the week before, and far below a record high of 215,000 in early April.

Despite the drop-off, the state has processed what it says are a record 1.1 million claims through last week, totaling $4.3 billion in payments.

Of the $4.3 billion in payments, $1.6 billion has come from the state, while $2.5 billion came as part of federal pandemic unemployment compensation. An additional roughly $250 million came through the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program.

Both federal programs came as a result of the CARES Act. The $2.5 billion program provides $600 in weekly aid to anyone getting benefits from April 4 through July 25. The other federal program gives benefits to self-employed workers such as independent contractors and others whose wages don't qualify for regular jobless benefits.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

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