Tag Archive: unemployment

Our Unemployment, Economy and Zombie Foreclosures

With Governor Christie’s Budget Address only two weeks away, he has appointed Dr. James Wooster as New Jersey’s new chief economist. This appointment follows years of over-estimating state revenue and economic growth. In the wake of a $1 billion [revenue] miss last year, Christie pointed the finger directly at economists. It remains unclear whether the fault lay with his chief economist or whether Christie insisted on over-estimating in order to include items he wanted such as an income tax reduction. For his new budget, fraught with Pen/Ben and transportation essentials, Christie will need all the help he can get. Below are some current data points.

  • Unemployment: U. S. unemployment is now 5.7%, whereas NJ is 6.2 % and higher than contiguous states: DE (5.4%), NY (5.8%) and PA (4.8%). Hard-hit Atlantic City Area has unemployment at 14.1% with nonfarm employment dropping by 10,000 between July and December.

  • Foreclosures: RealtyTrak in a Feb 5 report found “One in four U. S. foreclosures are “zombies” – vacated by the homeowner but not yet repossessed by foreclosing lender… Among U. S. metro areas Atlantic City and Trenton had the biggest year to year increase in zombies… Zombie foreclosures increased 109 percent from a year ago in New Jersey, and the state posted the second highest total of any state.”

  • Economy: The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank district includes Southern NJ. It reports that “Overall this area’s economic activity as measured by the coincident index has increased 2.3 percent over the past 12 months, whereas PA has increased 5.0% and DE by 4.7%. NJ is also below the national average of 3.5%.” The NY Federal Reserve which includes Northern New Jersey reports that here, “Activity is now up more than 2 percent over the past twelve months – the strongest year-over-year growth in the state since 2005. Nevertheless, with New Jersey’s economy still an estimated 4 percent below its pre-recession (2008) peak, sustained growth in activity will be needed for some time before the state fully recovers.” In comparison NY State is better off: “The current level of activity in the state is still about 3 percent below its pre-recession (2008) peak.”

  • Restoring Jobs

    Having gone through a devastating recession in recent years, restoring jobs for New Jerseyans is probably our government’s single most important task. According to the NJ Department of Labor (see Table 1 seasonally adjusted non-farm labor) in September jobs increased by 600 over the prior month and only by 6,100 over the prior 12 months – a pig which no amount of lipstick will make pretty. 8,700 jobs were lost in September in the  Leisure & Hospitality category – mainly casino jobs – a serious problem (and one that will grow worse in October) which Governor Christie has yet to address.          

    Our current unemployment rate of 6.5% is based on the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force employment of 4,209,100 people in September. For 2010 when Christie took office the average was 4,108,700 so we have gained only 100,400 jobs since then. We have even further to go to reach the 2007 level of 4,264,600 employment. Only when and if we reach the 2007 level can we declare a recovery.

    Our neighboring states and the nation as a whole are doing better. NJ’s job growth rate is the second worst in the nation, just ahead of Alaska.  

    Economic and Fiscal Failures: Christie & Corbett by the Numbers

    I like when advocacy pieces come to us sourced and linked, like this from an email that came to us via DNC. Much of Gov. Christie’s time spent galavanting around the country trying to rehabilitate his scandal-plagued street cred has ironically been a tour of states doing better than New Jersey is. But today, Christie is in Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Corbett’s economic policies have left his state hurting, just like Christie’s have. You’d think with 5 embarrassing credit downgrades in his record, Corbett would avoid even getting photographed with Christie, who has a record 8. But Corbett’s desperate and tanking in the polls – down 17 points against Dem challenger Tom Wolf – so I guess his handlers told him the Christie road show was worth bringing to town even if it upstages him. After all, these days Christie’s RGA seems to be the only thing propping up Corbett’s campaign; RGA’s actually Corbett’s biggest donor. Way to light up the grassroots there, Tom.

    Tonight, Hillary Clinton’s in the Philly area, too, headlining a Women for Wolf funder. Both Clinton and Christie will need southeast PA voters come November 2016, if either of them gets that far. We’ll see in less than a month which one can claim their PAGov visiting star power helped swing an election.

    Meanwhile, here’s DNC’s take on why it shouldn’t be Christie:

    Job Growth

    47th – Since Corbett took office in January 2011, Pennsylvania has ranked 47th in job creation. [Keystone Research Center, 10/7/14]

    42nd – In that same time period, New Jersey ranked 42nd in job creation. [Keystone Research Center, 10/7/14]

    Huge Corporate Tax Breaks

    $3.9 billion – In Pennsylvania, Corbett gives away over $3.9 billion a year in corporate tax breaks. [Washington Post 01/30/14]

    $4 billion – Under Christie, New Jersey has given away over $4 billion in corporate tax breaks and grants. [Bloomberg, 6/11/14]

    Below, their massive shortfalls, downgrades & regional worsts.  

    A Tale of Two Unemployment Rates

    promoted by Rosi

    One of Chris Christie’s biggest busts has been on jobs.  He trashed the ARC tunnel project (which we could use now that Sandy messed up the other tunnels) which cost thousands of short term and long term jobs, then put all his eggs in Revel and The American Dream to create jobs.  

    Revel collapsed in bankruptcy and The American Dream remains a dream and most of the jobs either would have had were low wage.

    Now we see that the United States unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent today, lower than it’s been since prior to the economic collapse of 2008.

    Two weeks ago NJ got this report: N.J. unemployment rate increases to 6.6 percent; 900 jobs lost.

    The GOP outside of NJ may want Christie, but those of us paying attention here sure don’t.

    Our Statistical Dreamworld Belies a Deteriorating NJ Poverty Crisis

    Politicians and governments love words. Words can be powerful. They can motivate, inspire and promote. But they can also deceive. And it is primarily a level of deception, employed by a whole host of words, that is leading a major disconnect. It is the big lie that is right in front of us, and it can be summed up in a simple question: if the recession is apparently over (statistically speaking), why is the majority of New Jersey’s population suffering on a level unprecedented in living memory?

    To tackle this important question, we have to take a two-pronged approach. First, we must see how we’re being deceived into thinking that life is improving when it is absolutely not. Secondly, we need to look at real, working models of how to bring the unemployed and underemployed genuine relief and a measure of security.

    First, let’s tackle the deception. There was no “Great Recession.” It never began and it never ended. Recessions are typtically temporary economic phenomena, witnessed in cyclical fashion in all industrialized economies. We had one in the 1970’s. We had one in the early 80’s. It was a situation characterized by stagnant economic growth and a degree of unemployment. In every instance, the economy contracted, then within two or three years expanded again. Sometimes state and federal authorities helped things along; at other times it was simply the dynamics of our terrifying yet dynamic capitalist system that moved mountains. The economic situation that we’re experiencing now is approaching a decade in duration. So again, there was no “Great Recession.”

    What is happening, what began as early as the first term of President George W. Bush, was a Second Great Depression. And it’s not over yet, not by a long shot. In fact, unless government steps in at all levels, this current, regressive economic state will become the “new normal.” In other words, America will become a Third World Nation, with an advanced developed lifestyle enjoyed by only a fraction of the population. Pictures of this way of life are available on the web; just go to Google Images and type in “Guatemala City” or “Karachi, Pakistan.”

    The deception isn’t conspiratorial, its roots lie in traditional government methods. Its primary source is our current method of detecting key economic statistics, namely, the rates of unemployment and poverty. Current state and federal measurements of these two vital indicators are now so off the mark that even those of us who aren’t economists suspect that something’s wrong.

    First, consider our ‘official’ unemployment rate. It doesn’t measure those people who have either dropped out of or been shut out of the workforce. It doesn’t take the underemployed into account. According to the Federal Government, the current rate hovers around 6.2 percent. From the point of view of any modern industrialized nation, that’s not too bad. Think about what this number means. For every 100 workers out there, this statistic stipulates that only 6 or 7 are out of a job. Yet to adults on the ground, we know that this number might as well apply to alien abductions in Nevada. Out of all the people I know, it would be safe to say that half if not more are either underemployed or not working. I turn on my television and see mostly ads for payday loans and access to black lung lawsuit settlements. So who is correct, my unscientific assumptions based on my own personal observations, or that of the government with its army of bureaucrats, statisticians and economists? I’m starting to think mine are.

    And then there is the national poverty rate. Again, the government’s numbers are the stuff of pure fantasy. According to today’s Star-Ledger, for a family of four (!) the level hovers around $23,000 annually. Yet I have many neighbors, friends and family who make close to double that and are teetering on the edge of disaster after paying their monthly rent and utilities. I’ve got neighbors who tell me to be careful when pulling into my parking lot, not just because their kids are playing in the area, but because they haven’t been able to pay their auto insurance for the past four months. Again, when it comes to determining our economic state, who is accurate? Who is being deceived?

    This week, New Jersey got its answer. The United Way, one of the state’s most respected and experienced charitable organizations, released a major report providing a more straightforward and accurate rendition of current conditions. The report said that 38 percent of households – which is almost half of the state – are “struggling to meet basic needs.” What are these needs? Medical care. Dental care. Child care. Transportation. Housing. You know, the basic features of life that make America a First World Nation. These struggling families – and their numbers are growing – are called “ALICE households,” the name standing for: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

    Once this new standard is applied, the results conform “mysteriously” to what so many of us already see in the Garden State. For example, in urban Trenton, 76 percent of all households are at ALICE levels or below. In suburban seaside Wildwood, the number stands at 71 percent. In troubled Newark the number is 68 percent. These monumentally high indicators tell us that Third World conditions have already arrived, more or less, for an overwhelming majority of families in these diverse, radically different locales. But the Check Engine light is even on, and steadily so, in Princeton. A wealthy town filled with secure families, right? It’s got a 30 percent ALICE rate; 11 percent of households in that leafy university town are solidly below the poverty line.

    As the ALICE rate increases, it sends an even more ominous message. America, and New Jersey in particular, is still a land of social mobility, but today, the direction of this mobility is moving inexorably downward.

    This is the rate that we, as a political polity, should be using to correctly and accurately gauge our current economic and social state.

    So what do we do about it? What can we do about it? We can’t wait for the economy to turn around this time, because this isn’t a recession, it’s a Depression. We have experienced this for almost a decade now, and it continues in New Jersey. If current trends continue for, say, the next ten years, we’ll lose an entire generation to debt, despair, illness and dysfunction. This slide is still in its early stages, and it doesn’t seem to be reversing due to the magic of the market.

    What we need is comprehensive welfare reform and a complete reordering of our state’s political and economic priorities. We need to stop hating each other and reacting to the woes of our neighbors with glee or advice characteristic of the days of Western Expansion. We need to stop our war on our schools and teachers because they’re not the problem. We need to get our kids off the street. We need to increase access to job training and technology. No, I’m not calling for a communist revolution. Communism doesn’t work. I’m not calling for an oligarchic state, as it exists in Mainland China. That won’t work in the long-term either. What seems to work, what seems to keep societies from completely going off the deep end, can be found on a pleasant, green Island in the North Atlantic. Known for its experience with tidal waves of poverty, occupation and injustice, it seems to have developed a comprehensive, yet modest system to keep its people afloat in good times and bad. I’m talking about Ireland.

    More on this in my next post.  


    March NJ jobless numbers – NJ lagging behind

    You remember this guy, right? The headstrong governor here in the land of make-believe who propagandized the happy-talk of Jersey Comeback with banners, theme music and videos and jacked-up Republican campaign rallies passed off to the taxpayers public town halls in their best interest. How’s that working for ya? Christie quietly retired the banners a couple years ago, and knew better than to utter that phrase in his Republican National Convention speech that same year. Christie’s trying to make a case for himself as viable on the national scene beyond the RGA, tougher now because of the scandals. But we’re still left with the impact of some piss-poor state economic decisions over recent years, many of them his.

    Unemployment is up here, though the state is using terms like “flat” and “small dips” to describe it. New Jersey lost about 1,300 jobs in March, bringing NJ’s unemployment to 7.2%. That’s up from 7.1% this time last year, and lagging half a point behind the national rate of 6.7%.

    What’s Happening today Wed. 01/15/2014

    Today people are digesting the comments in Christie’s State of the State Address. For many the meal did not go down so well.

    With Bridgegate on the minds of many and swirling suspicions in the air one might have thought that Christie would be more responsive. The State of the State Address might be designed to be lofty and to convey a sweep of past achievements and a broad vision for the future. However, there is something rotten in the state of our State (or more particularly in the Executive Office and the Port Authority.) He said little on the matter, and what he did say was not reassuring. He vaguely reiterated, “mistakes were clearly made,” but he did not  elaborate further. He failed to fess up about anything he might know or have done, and he placed the onus on others to find out the truth.

    Furthermore, he put his future cooperation with investigative bodies in doubt. He said, “We will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries.” Apparently he will only respond to inquiries which he deems appropriate. Given the number of investigations that are likely to take place, more will be revealed. He had said on Thursday, “I’m not completed with those interviews yet, but when I am, if there is additional information that needs to be disclosed, I will do so.” He could have let people know what he knows and maybe have put the matter closer to rest. Instead, he has made his bed and will have to lie in it – uncomfortable, with little rest and a rotten smell in the air.      

    He distracted attention away from Bridgegate (not suitable for a national or NJ audience) and spent much of his time talking about new initiatives. They included K-12 education, higher education, crime prevention, drug rehabilitation, job training. health care, and infrastructure investment. However,  they were just soundbite teases.  He said, “We have discussed many exciting opportunities for investment …. But here is the simple truth. We cannot afford to do it right now.”  He then put the blame on “soaring pension and debt costs.” Pension reform does call for increasingly hefty state contributions in the new and succeeding budgets. However, it was these reforms which he trumpeted for years after negotiating them with Democratic legislators. The reforms called for sacrifice from State employees and pensioners but the quid pro quo was that the State would resume required contributions. He left listeners unsure whether he was arguing for reduced contributions, more sacrifice or something else. He raised the subject but provided no solution.

    If this was a bad moment to capture the attention of a national audience, he was successful. His discussion of sometimes arcane Jersey-specific issues was not of interest elsewhere, and cable TV’s attention waned.

    Other than initially patting himself on the back with dubious successes (jobs, unemployment, holding the line against new taxes, Sandy recovery, and shrinking State employees), he said little of substance. His new initiatives vanished into thin air. Regarding Bridgegate he acknowledged nothing new and left us with uncertainty regarding his future cooperation. The final blow was raising the specter of another blood-letting battle over pensions.

    Menendez & Booker vote to extend unemployment benefits

    Both our senators voted Yes this morning behind a Democratic initiative to extend unemployment benefits that have expired. The vote was 60-37. That gives a big win on a procedural voteto President Obama and the Democrats, to extend long-term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans, including more than 200,000 military vets. Six Senate Republicans voted with the Democrats.

    But once the bill clears the upper house, it goes to the House and to Speaker John Boehner. And he’s under pressure from tea partiers and the right-wing of his own party to kill it there. Or, amounting to the same thing, to require offsets to pay for it.

    Senator Menendez is tweeting this to his more than 10,000 Twitter followers:

    NJ’s senior senator also sent a link to the petition to supporters today. @Cory Booker has been using Twitter to talk particularly about unemployment among young adults in NJ today.

    If you’re on Twitter, you can tweet your thanks to @SenatorMenendez or @Menendez4NJ and @CoryBooker. Hashtag #RenewUI.