A new report issued by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association finds a growing number of Garden State residents are packing up and moving to other states, because the cost of living, and taxes in particular, are so high here.

“From 2005 to 2014 New Jersey lost more than 2 million residents, and from 2004 to 13, New Jersey lost $18 billion in net adjusted gross income,” Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said.

She said this "outmigration" has resulted in the loss of “75,000 jobs, $1.5 billion in lost economic activity, $4.2 billion in lost labor income, and $8.4 billion in lost household spending.

The report finds the departure of New Jersey residents has been steady and ongoing, with most heading to Pennsylvania, New York, Florida and North Carolina — all states that have more favorable tax rates.

Siekerka said while many retirees are packing up and leaving, a very high number of millennials -- people between the ages of 18 and 34 -- are joining them.

So why are so many New Jerseyans leaving the Garden State? Siekerka listed several reasons, involving the cost of living in New Jersey, which is higher than in many other states:

  • The average cost of housing is $1,530;
  • The per capita state and local tax burden is over $6,000;
  • The average energy expenditure per person is more than $4,000; and
  • The average car insurance premium is $1,500.

Siekerka said this is a significant problem because New Jersey invests heavily in quality education. She said we have some of the best schools in the nation, but many high school graduates go away to college and never return, because they get offered jobs elsewhere or decide it’s simply too expensive to come back and live in Jersey.

"Outmigration is having a direct and significant impact on the state of New Jersey now, and we don’t see the trend changing,” she said. “We must accept that outmigration is a serious economic issue and concern to the state of New Jersey, and our long-term stability.”

In order to try and turn things around, she recommends that state lawmakers send an immediate signal that we as a state are “in the process of improving the economic climate and driving down the cost of living in order to send a clear message to encourage people to take pause and consider staying here in their future.”

If we don’t start sending that message, said Siekerka, “there’s no reason for them to contemplate anything else but to continue to think about leaving in the future.”

When asked if New Jersey lawmakers have expressed an interest in sitting down, examining the data and having a dialogue, she said she's hoping more discussions take place.

“We’re waiting for more meetings to happen, we look forward to more meetings to happen, the message to lawmakers is please sit with us and lets talk about this," she said.

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