Census Numbers Show Poverty on the Rise in New Jersey
Poverty rates in most states have stabilized, but New Jersey was one of three states that saw a jump in both the number of people living in poverty and the poverty rate in 2013.
New census numbers show the poverty rate in the Garden State climbed from 10.8 percent in 2012 to 11.4 percent last year. New Mexico and Washington saw increases as well.
The poverty rate generally follows the unemployment rate, so the data came as a surprise to Melville Miller, president of Legal Services of New Jersey. He expected to see a leveling off, or even a slight drop, as the unemployment rate has been declining steadily over the past several months.
"The poverty rate is slower than the unemployment rate to reflect change by some period, and the size of that gap has varied recovery to recovery," he said. "So, that lag could be one of the reasons."
According to the data, the number of people living in poverty went from 934,943 in 2012 to 998,549 in 2013. Despite the numbers, the state's poverty rate still remains well below the national average of 15.8 percent. Cumberland County had the highest rate in the state, followed by Hudson and Salem counties. Hunterdon County had the lowest rate.
The lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy could also be factoring in, according to Miller.
"It's possible you may have had a job, but were still in the throes of trying to recover -- that could definitely have impacted the poverty rate rather than the unemployment rate," he said. "New Jersey has also seen a growth in employment, but many of those increases have been in the lowest-paying service sector. So, again, you could have a job, but still be very much in the throes of poverty."
Looking forward, only time will tell whether these numbers hold true.
"It's important that when you see something that's a little surprising and out of kilter with the rest of the country, to give it more time before drawing any conclusions," Miller said.