By CBS3 Staff

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey saw a nearly 20% decrease in the number of new unemployment claims last week as the number of coronavirus cases nears 158,000. Gov. Phil Murphy reported 1,261 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 157,815.

There were also another 66 COVID-19-related deaths as the death toll now stands at 11,401.

“Roughly 1.17 million New Jerseyans have filed unemployment claims since COVID-19 began,” Murphy said. “As of this past Saturday, 911,000 of these claims have been fulfilled.”

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Murphy says the state has launched a new program to expedite claims and has since cleared 345,000 claims.

“The unemployment system has paid out a total of $4.3 billion in benefits, including $1.6 billion from the state UI trust fund, during this emergency,” Murphy said. “More than $2.7 billion in federal funds have been paid out.”

Meanwhile, the state is focused on reopening and data being tracked continues to move in the right direction.

However, the Garden State still leads the region and other large states in new cases per 100,000 people, patients in hospitals per 100,000 people and new deaths per 100,000 people.

“We’re not out of the woods,” Murphy said. “We must continue to practice our social distancing.”

Health officials are urging residents to get tested in order to contribute to data collection impacting the state’s road to recovery.

As of Friday, there will be 208 testing sites open across the state. Murphy says the more data recorded, “the more confidence we can have that it’s time to move forward.”