For years after the Great Recession, New Jersey’s economy continued to sputter and the unemployment rate remained stubbornly high.

Over the past 18 months, however, the Garden State economy began to pick up steam and the jobless rate began to decline.

The unemployment rate now stands at 4.3 percent, more than half a point lower than the national rate (4.9 percent) according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But don't expect the state unemployment rate to drop much lower.

According to James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, the jobless rate rarely dips below 4 percent, even when the economy is going like gangbusters.

He noted in some cases people who are unemployed have in-demand skills and they’re looking around for the perfect job but in other cases “you might be attempting to acquire the skills, but it may take a year or two years before you can upgrade yourself.

"If you participate in any of those job training programs, you could still be looking for work while you’re taking the training but that training is going to take time.”

Hughes said “the economy never stands still, it always changes. There’s creative destruction so new jobs and new industries are being created.”

He explains there are actually three classifications of unemployment.

One type is structural, he said, which we still have right now.

“Essentially, that’s a mismatch between the jobs that are available and the skill sets of people available to fill those jobs. An example of this is when someone is required to have a college education or a certain type of training to fill a certain type of job that may be available."

Another type of unemployment is frictional, when people transfer from one job to another.

“You may have strong skills that are in-demand but you leave your job and you are interviewing for other jobs, and you’re not going to take the first job that comes along. You have the skill set, so you want to find the exact type of job you want, so you have the luxury of doing that,” he said. “When people are transitioning between jobs they are temporarily unemployed, so it’s sort of friction within the market.”

The third classification is called cyclical unemployment, which Hughes explained, “stems from inefficient macro demand."

"A result of this type of unemployment is during a recession, when demand for certain types of jobs drops because people aren’t buying certain types of goods and services.”

No matter how many jobs are created, “some people just do not have the skills to meet the expectations of the job itself. You can never have a zero percent unemployment economy. When you get down to a 4 percent unemployment, that’s essentially full employment.”

According to the most recent monthly Federal Labor statistics, more men are unemployed in New Jersey than women, and the group with the highest unemployment number of jobless individuals collecting benefits is the 30 to 44 age group, followed by those 55 and older.

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