NJ employment and unemployment not so rosy

The favorable economic news is that our unemployment rate in April dropped 0.1% to 4.1%, somewhat better than the national average of 4.4%. Regional monthly unemployment and employment data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is first sent to the respective states providing them an opportunity to spin the information before more complete data appears on the BLS website. Although NJ employers only added 1,900 non-farm jobs in April, James Wooster, chief economist for the NJ Department of Treasury, said in a statement reported by nj.com that “This is fully in line with the performance over the current recovery.” News services often fail to follow up on more data or to provide a broader context.

In spite of the seemingly good news, from April 2016 to April 2017 the number of non farm workers in NJ increased by a meager 51,600 (from 4.064 million to 4.116 million.)

In the span of just six quarters between 2007 and 2009, national business output declined by $753 billion and 8.1 million jobs were lost. This period was the worst American recession since the Great Depression. Our pre-recession high for non-farm workers was 4,079 million in 2007. It was not until July 2016, nine years later, when we recovered the lost jobs and reached 4,085 million jobs. Now through April, after 10 years, we have only increased our employment by 37 million above the pre-recession period.

NJ Non Farm employment
Aver. 2007: 4.079 million. (pre-recession high)
April 2016: 4.064 million (one year ago)
July 2016: 4.085 million (first month above pre-recession high)
April 2017 4.116 million. (current employment)


Our current unemployment rate (4.1%) is in a similar range but better than Delaware: 4.6%, New York :4.3%, Pennsylvania: 4.9% and Connecticut: 4.9%. For most of the post-recession years our unemployment has been high and has lagged behind that of our neighbors. As recently as April 2013 it was at 8.5% and then in April 2015 declined to 6.2%. BLS also provides data for a broader definition of unemployment which adds in discouraged workers, marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons. Using this measure during the second quarter of 2016 through first quarter of 2017 NJ has 9.7% unemployment. Such suggests that although our current official rate of 4.1% is low there are plenty of people in our state who remain in distressed circumstances.

The issue of jobs remains important for New Jersey. We need more of them, higher skilled ones, a $15.00 minimum wage, and equal pay for women and men.

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