Unemployment down in NJ but wages not rising fast enough
Employment in the Garden State is holding steady while the unemployment rate edged slightly lower.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports the latest preliminary data shows employment in June was essentially unchanged, while the state’s unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.3 percent
During the month of June, employment increases were reported in five of nine major private industry sectors including manufacturing, construction, trade, transportation and utilities.
Industries that lost jobs include leisure and hospitality, information, and financial activities.
Meanwhile, public sector employment in Jersey rose by 800 jobs.
“I guess you could say New Jersey’s economy is doing OK,” said Rutgers University economist James Hughes.
“We’re now in the second-longest economic expansion in history. If we make it until July of next year, it will be the longest economic expansion in history.”
Hughes pointed out after the end of the Great Recession, “we’ve had multiple, multiple years of sustained job growth. However, wage growth in the Garden State has been lagging.”
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Jersey ranks dead last of all the states in wage growth.
He pointed out the average weekly wage in Jersey during the final quarter of last year was $1,262, which was 6th highest in the country. But the average wage increase over last year in the Garden State was 1.8 percent, compared to 3.9 percent nationally.
“When we’re looking at the wage increase it certainly puts those who are struggling economically really in a bad place. They are the ones that feel the brunt of not having an adequate wage increase given our high cost structures," Hughes said.
He noted while the economic outlook for New Jersey and the nation is positive, things could change dramatically if a trade war heats up with China, there is a major outbreak of violence in the Middle East or some other unforeseen calamity takes place.