Jobless have trouble finding help in NJ

VINELAND, N.J. - December 29, 2008 - The unemployment rate in the Garden State now stands at 6.1%, and claims for benefits have increased at least 30% since last year at this time.

As a result, the system to process claims is being bogged down.

"This month I haven't got no check, nothing," said Betty Jane Eckles, who was laid off from her job at a Yacht Manufacturing Company at the end of October.

She was at the state unemployment office in Vineland where, even after waiting for two hours, there were still 40 people ahead of her.

Eckles said at one point she was told to use a computer in the office. She couldn't find what she needed, so she had to take another number and start all over again.

She wasn't alone. Felix Sanchez spent hours listening to a recorded message telling him there was a high number of calls.

"I had to wait 20 minutes, and I waited 20 minutes and they say wait 20 more minutes," Sanchez said. "I'll be here for, like, two hours."

Earlier in December, Governor Jon Corzine said 130 emergency workers would be hired to help process the growing backlog of unemployment claims.

But, the system is overwhelmed. Claimants are urged to call or go through the process online. But, many say they can't get through.

The frustration is statewide. At the unemployment office in West Deptford, Linda Boeckle said her number finally came up after three days of trying.

"When you call you get put on hold, then you go through the system and it says 'No agents are available to talk to you,' then hit hangs up on you," Boeckle said.

The state is working to solve the problem, and suggests people call later in the day instead of first thing in the morning.

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