NJ adds 17,800 jobs, with unemployment and labor force down
TRENTON – Employers in New Jersey added 17,800 jobs in March, helping push the state’s unemployment rate down by 0.4 percentage points to 4.2%.
Eight of the nine major private industry sectors recorded gains, all except for information, according to monthly data issued Thursday by the state labor department. The top increases were 4,900 in leisure and hospitality, 4,300 in professional and business services and 4,200 in trade, transportation and utilities.
New Jersey’s economy has gained jobs in 16 straight months. It has added back 679,400 jobs in the last 23 months, since bottoming out in April 2020 when lockdowns were being imposed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
That amounts to 92.7% of the 732,600 jobs lost in March and April of 2020, a rate slightly ahead of the 91.5% of lost jobs that have been recovered nationally.
State-by-state data will be released by federal government Friday. As of one month ago, when New Jersey had regained 89.9% of the jobs lost through the initial February report, the state’s recovery rate ranked 21st highest among the 50 states.
The February jobs numbers were increased to show an increase of 29,200, which is 3,300 more than originally estimated.
At a New Jersey Chamber of Commerce conference in Atlantic City, where the focus was on strategizing on ways to push the state to become more hospitable to businesses, Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday said “New Jersey has a good story to tell” that includes the nation’s ninth-highest rate of economic growth in the second half of 2021, an annualized rate of 5.4%. It was 7.4% in the fourth quarter.
“This growth becomes even more impressive given that it came against the headwinds of national inflationary pressures, huge mental health stress and learning, and the onset of the Omicron tsunami, any one of which could have stopped our forward motion,” Murphy said.
Former state chief economist Charles Steindel, who analyzes the monthly jobs reports for the Garden State Initiative, noted that the unemployment rate remains higher than the nation’s 3.6% rate. He also noted the labor force dropped by 4,000 to its lowest level since November 2020.
“This is in contrast to recent reasonably strong increases in the nation’s labor force,” Steindel said. “The difference with the nation is due to more than slower population growth here: our labor force participation rate has been dropping, while the nation’s has been rising. At this time, it is very hard to understand the slackness in New Jersey’s labor force participation, especially in light of the strong job environment.”