In Brief

Murphy won’t say if N.J. will extend extra unemployment benefits

By: - August 24, 2021 6:53 am

New Jersey continues to have among the highest unemployment rates in the nation, at 7.3%. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As the expiration date for pandemic-related unemployment benefits looms for over 500,000 New Jerseyans still relying on the weekly payments, Gov. Phil Murphy won’t say whether the state plans on extending those benefits.

“No news on the unemployment extension,” he said during his weekly coronavirus press briefing Monday.

The state Department of Labor also declined to comment, saying the agency is “waiting for forthcoming guidance from” Washington, D.C.

It’s unclear what else the state needs from the federal government. Labor and Treasury officials announced last week states can boost unemployment benefits using pandemic funds like the American Rescue Plan.

When the pandemic led to skyrocketing unemployment rates and massive job losses, the federal government passed coronavirus relief packages to extend unemployment longer and allow workers who weren’t typically eligible, like freelancers and gig workers, to collect benefits.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation programs, lifelines to millions of New Jerseyans since the coronavirus pandemic began, will end Sept. 6. So will the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation fund that has provided an extra $300 weekly to claimants since January.

People who are receiving regular state benefits will continue getting those payouts, but lose the $300 weekly supplement.

Federal unemployment programs were re-upped twice during the pandemic through the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan.

The state Labor Department has paid out more than $33 billion in state and federal benefits.

New Jersey continues to have among the highest unemployment rates in the nation at 7.3%. A monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report released last week showed the state has recovered 62% of jobs lost since March 2020. 

Business owners have griped that workers are staying home because of the extra benefits, but economists argue pandemic-era assistance isn’t what’s keeping people from rejoining the workforce — they point to concerns like childcare and health risks — and don’t expect a hiring boom in early September when the benefits expire.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.