Report: NJ counties struggle with economic recovery
The recession ended years ago, but no one told New Jersey. According to a new report from the National Association of Counties, more than half of the counties in the Garden State still haven't returned to pre-recession levels on any of four key indicators: gross domestic product, home prices, jobs and unemployment rates.
Thirteen of New Jersey's counties are performing worse now in all categories, compared to before the economic downturn, the report found.
"It's a problem, it's been a problem and it's likely to keep being a problem going forward for at least some time to get back where we were seven years ago," said Joseph Seneca of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, reacting to the report.
Seneca pointed to Superstorm Sandy and recent casino closures in Atlantic City as contributors to New Jersey's stunted growth. He also said much of the recovery elsewhere is in energy and manufacturing industries, where New Jersey has taken a back seat.
"It points to the importance of keeping the business climate competitive and making sure the infrastructure in the state is attractive," he said.
John Donnadio, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, said as home prices and the economy continue to struggle, county governments across New Jersey are finding it increasingly difficult to provide essential services for the aged, disabled and less fortunate.
"Despite these daunting fiscal realities, county governments have done an outstanding job at providing necessary services in a cost effective manner through innovative shared services, consolidation and cost containment measures," Donnadio said in a statement.
The nation overall experienced growth in 2014, but recovery remains sluggish. While unemployment dipped in almost all county economies across the country, 95 percent still haven't filled the gap to pre-recession levels.
Nearly three-quarters of counties nationwide recovered pre-recession levels on at least one of the key indicators.
Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Salem, Sussex, and Warren counties were New Jersey's economies that failed to fill the gap so far on all four measures.