As we head into the second half of 2022, what is the economic outlook for New Jersey?

The state’s top economist said a number of variables are pulling us in many directions.

Rutgers University economist James Hughes said inflation is embedded for the time being, with energy and food prices still rising so don’t count on any sudden relief on the horizon.

“But there are some positives. Firms are still hiring. We’ve had strong job growth. We still have record numbers or close to record numbers of unfilled job openings,” Hughes said.

The NJ economy is strong now

Hughes pointed out the state’s economy "out-performed the nation in this expansion.”

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Hughes said New Jersey has recovered about 95% of our job losses from the start of the pandemic, which is slightly better than the nation.

Despite the strength of New Jersey's economy, there are a lot of unknows facing the state and the nation. Hughes said once we get closer to the end of the year, starting around October, the picture gets a bit murkier.

“There are structural changes going on. The cheap money era is ending. We didn’t realize how good we’ve had it the past decade in terms of record low interest rates.”

He said there is also continued uncertainty about Ukraine, possible food shortages around the globe, lockdowns in China and a host of other issues – so predicting what will happen to the economy next fall and winter is extremely difficult.

We don’t have a clue

“There are too many variables, too many uncertainties. We like to say we’re in uncharted territory, but that’s a coward’s way out of saying we don’t really know. We don’t have a clue,” Hughes said.

One aspect to watch is slowed economic growth.

“It’s not quite the perfect economic storm yet but we can definitely say growth is slowing, but again there’s no certainties. You look at charts and the like – the best way I can describe it, growth continues until it doesn’t,” Hughes said.

He said it used to be that when we had two straight quarters of negative gross domestic product growth, experts would announce we were in a recession. However, Hughes said "that's sort of fallen out of favor now," and while the stock market has continued to drop for months, that doesn’t necessarily predict a recessionary period.

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions: