With the pandemic seemingly winding down, a growing number of New Jersey residents are asking when the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development One-Stop Career Centers will be reopened to address unemployment insurance concerns in person.

According to Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo, the question is somewhat misguided because there seems to be a widespread misunderstanding about the One-Stops and how they’ve been operating for years.

 

Does NJ have unemployment offices?

“Their primary goal is to help people return to the workforce, in either the field they used to work in or a new line of work,” he said.

“There have not been quote-unquote unemployment offices since the early 2000s, and over time there’s been a diminution of those even in-person services at the One-Stops because it became clearer and clearer folks are moving to be more on the phone and to more online," he said.

Asaro-Angelo explained it’s a waste of time to have people sitting in an office waiting for a customer to walk in as opposed to working on the phones or handling claims online.

What are the unemployment One-Stop Centers?

He pointed out the services typically offered at the One-Stop Centers include resume writing, developing job leads, interview coaching and referrals to training classes to sharpen certain skills.

“Pre-pandemic, about a third of our One-Stops provided limited employment assistance. We’re planning to reinstate that help by appointment only, sooner rather than later," he said.

He suggested plans are in the works for this service but details have not been finalized.

Helping people is the goal

Asaro-Angelo said the other states have shown that unemployment agencies get more done over the phone and online than in-person visits.

He noted no neighboring states have in-person unemployment services, and from Virginia to Maine, only Connecticut offered this service before COVID because they did not have a phone or online customer service presence at all.

He said early in the pandemic, “all workforce services were moved to a virtual platform, and then several months ago we opened our workforce services to the public by appointment.”

“The One-Stop Career Centers never stopped providing services, we’ve made decisions with one core mission in mind, to get the most benefits to the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time," he said.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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