Our embattled governor was excited yesterday over the NJ Labor Department’s press release announcement. Its headline states that in May there was an increase of 17,600 non-farm workers. Christie boasted that the number represents 25 percent of all the jobs created in the country last month, although there were higher increases in California and Ohio, and 27 states had an increase. Don’t let the headline fool you. What the press release mentions in the last paragraph is that in May the unadjusted workweek for production workers decreased 0.2 hours, average hourly earnings were lower by $0.12, and weekly earnings fell by $8.82 – not exactly what you would expect in a Jersey Comeback. Private sector jobs grew by 12,900. However, the leisure and hospitality sector, bolstered by the addition of the Revel casino in Atlantic City, accounted for 9,900 of those jobs, and Revel so far is reporting disappointing revenue.
Positive sounding news is always welcome, but data for any one month is no harbinger for the future. The number of new non-farm workers in the last twelve months increased only by 59,800 – an average of 5,000 per month. Furthermore “In May, public sector employment was higher by 4,700 due mainly to summer season hiring at the local and state government levels.” We don’t know how much of the private sector increase was due to summer season hiring. Christie boasted that the non-farm increase represents the state’s biggest one-month boost in seven years. However, the total May number of non-farm workers remains below the level we enjoyed during the years of 2000 through 2008, so we still have a long way to go.
The press release favorably interprets the May uptick in unemployment from 9.1% to 9.2% as suggesting more people are re-entering the workforce. One might easily imagine that if our governor had his druthers unemployment would decrease not increase. NJ now has had two consecutive months of unemployment increases – from March’s 9.0%, to April’s 9.1%, to May’s 9.2%. In April NJ’s unemployment ranked us 46th, and Over-the-Month Change in Unemployment Rates ranked us 47th. For May our unemployment rate ranked us 47th, with higher rates only in California, District of Columbia, Nevada and Rhode Island. We are trending badly.
Christie can spin the unemployment numbers all he wants, trumpet the one-month increase in non-farm workers, call the Democrats “pessimists” and complain about “all of the rooting against New Jersey’s comeback.” However, Democrats like Republicans want a comeback. We just don’t see it.