"As long as we are not chased from our words we have nothing to fear. As long as our utterances keep their sound we have a voice. As long as our words keep their sense we have a soul." -- Edmond Jabes, from The Book of Yukel, Return to the Book

Friday, January 18, 2013

Jobs numbers more mixed than
either Christie or Dems want to admit

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development released its latest jobs figures and, in general, they do not look too bad. They're not as great as the governor is saying, but they do show that there maybe some signs of life stirring in the New Jersey economy.
Private sector employers in the Garden State added 30,900 workers to their payrolls in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), marking the state’s largest single monthly employment gain since the current practice of calculating total nonfarm employment began in 1990. The federal agency’s preliminary data also shows 46,100 private sector jobs were added between December 2011 and December 2012, marking the largest over-the-year private sector job gain in New Jersey in more than a decade.

Private sector employers in New Jersey have added 103,200 jobs since February 2010, the low point of private sector employment during the recession, according to the preliminary federal data, which also shows that 2012 was the state’s third consecutive year of private sector employment growth.

"With December marking the single greatest job gain since 1990, we’re seeing the state begin to recover from the blow delivered by Sandy. While we still have work to do, the sustained job growth we saw over 2012 and December’s strong showing certainly makes it clear that New Jersey is moving into 2013 on a very positive note," said Charles Steindel, Chief Economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury.
But a closer look at the numbers reveals some disturbing elements:
  • The bulk of the jobs created in December -- 10,900 -- were in retail, many of which likely are seasonal and most of which are not the kind of high-paying jobs the state's economy has hemorrhaged in the last five years.
  • Over the last 12 months, even though the economy produced a significant number of jobs, the labor force participation rate barely budged, growing from 66 percent to 66.2 percent (this is the percentage of people who want work who have work) and is partly why the state's unemployment rate remains stubbornly high.
  • Over the last 12 months the state has continued to lose the kind of higher-paying jobs that used to sustain its middle class, jobs in pharmaceuticals (down 5.07 percent year-over-year), manufacturing of durable goods (down 3.89 percent) and construction (down 3.21 percent). Each of these sectors had a good December, though it was not good enough to erase losses experienced throughout the year.
Overall, I think Christie is right. We are looking at some positive signs, but Democratic criticisms also hold some water. The state appears to be stabilizing, but by no means are we witnessing an economic rebound or miracle.

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