Wealth index improving in New Jersey
New Jersey's environment for wealth creation is close to average, according to the RegentAtlantic New Jersey Wealth Index (RANJWI).
New Jersey's wealth index, which can range from zero to 100, stands at 44 for the fourth-quarter of 2014. A value of 50 is considered average.
"We're getting pretty close to what would be considered a normal level. The trajectory is great," said Andy Kapyrin, director of research at RegentAtlantic, an investment firm located in Morristown that puts out the RANJWI every quarter. "You know, the fact that we're only 44 out of 100, that sounds like a pretty bad score - it's actually about average."
Since 2012, when the index hit an all-time low value of 17, New Jersey's wealth index has improved rapidly, fueled mostly by a buoyant stock market. In fact, where the state stands now is almost exactly where it was at in 2006, before the financial crisis and recession happened.
Kapyrin said improvement in New Jersey is expanding beyond better stock returns, with a brighter outlook on hiring.
"We've actually recovered about 130,000 jobs from the bottom of the recession in this state alone, and that's pretty good news," Kapyrin said.
Despite the improvement, the state continues to fall short of the highest total number of workers that was reached in 2008.
The state's housing market is also continuing to improve.
"Anecdotally, I can tell you that the areas that are the New York suburbs and the areas that are the Philadelphia suburbs are doing much better, especially if you just look at their home prices. And home prices tend to be indicative of a lot of things going on," Kapyrin said. "People are obviously going to bid high on a home if they expect their income is currently high because the bank otherwise won't lend to them, but also if they expect their income to stay high and potentially to grow over time."
In terms of geography, the index sees the most growth and stabilization in home prices in suburban areas. Growth and stabilization is weakest along the Jersey Shore.
Overall, home values rose nearly 4 percent last year, the biggest jump since 2005.
Despite the improving wealth index value, there are things that could be done better to return the state to where it was in the thriving 1990s.
According to Kapyrin, recent big name corporate exits such as Sealed Air and Mercedes Benz USA are demonstrative of the need for a better business policy to attract and retain companies, especially those that offer high-paying jobs.
"It's kind of a black eye for New Jersey," Kapyrin said.
However, these big name exits are an opportunity for the state to try to understand why people are leaving.
"The small businesses will never even bother talking because the politicians won't bother talking to them. So it's important to have laws that are competitive to everybody, without having to have a negotiated side deal," Kapyrin said.
RegentAtlantic bases the RANJWI on four major components: personal income, stock performance, home values and employment.