Despite Strong Job Gains, NJ’s Economy Still Struggling
New data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows strong job growth in New Jersey at the beginning of 2015, and for the past two years.
"The latest figures show 12,400 jobs were created in the Garden State during the month of January; 11,800 of those were in the private sector and obviously, 600 were in the public sector," said Hal Wirths, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Wirths said the really exciting news, however, is revised data sets for 2013 and 2014.
"Our job numbers were revised up over 55 percent," he said. "We reported creating 47,800 jobs during that period, and the actual number is 74,600 jobs. That's a huge increase."
He said that brings total private sector job growth in New Jersey to 180,800 since 2010, figuratively the end of the Great Recession.
"This is the fifth year in a row of private sector job growth," Wirths said. "We definitely were lagging in the numbers, and now I think we're playing catch-up a little bit."
Despite the positive numbers, New Jersey's unemployment rate remains stuck at 6.3 percent.
James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, said the January job numbers are a big positive.
"However, it's going to take us many, many months at that level of employment growth to start closing the gap with the nation," Hughes said.
He added that neighboring states like New York and Pennsylvania have better job growth figures than the Garden State because those other states' metropolitan hubs, New York City and Philadelphia, "are going like gangbusters, and another big reason Jersey is lagging economically is we have one of the greatest concentrations of suburban office buildings in the country. They have fallen out of favor -- young people don't want to work out in the middle of the suburbs."
In other words, New Jersey is at a significant disadvantage.
"We have a suburban economy in a post-suburban world," Hughes said. "We're growing, but we're still lagging way behind the nation, so New Jersey is probably destined to be a slow-grow economy for the foreseeable future."