It has been almost 10 years since the start of the Great Recession.

The downturn began in December of 2007 and lasted until the spring of 2009. But ever since then, we’ve had a long period of economic growth.

But a new Rutgers University report finds the Jersey economy is very different than it was a decade ago.

James Hughes, a Rutgers University economist and professor at the Edward Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, co-authored “New Jersey’s Economic Roller Coaster: From ‘Go-Go’ to ‘Slow-Go.’”

He said the good news is “from the bottom of the recession we’ve made impressive employment gains, recaptured all the jobs we lost in the Great Recession.”

Hughes said private-sector employment has grown by 285,100 jobs since the bottom of the recession, but New Jersey still lagged behind the nation. Across the U.S., the number of the jobs that had been lost in the recession were recaptured by 2014. In Jersey, that didn’t happen until 2016.

He also said our total employment is barely above where it was 10 years ago, and the composition of the state’s economy has changed.

"We’ve essentially lost a lot of the higher-paying jobs in the state, well over 100,000 compared to December of '07, and we’ve added more than 150,000 lower-paying jobs compared to where we were 10 years ago," Hughes said.

In other words, the structure of the state’s economy has not really improved.

“We’re dealing not only with cyclical factors here, but also major structural changes, because the world of 2017 is quite different from 2007," he said. "Information technology has advanced, suburban office properties have become obsolete, so New Jersey is still in the process of adjusting to that new fundamental economic reality.”

Hughes said the key for an area to secure high-paying jobs in today’s world is that it has to be attractive to millennials, and corporate America will "pay big bucks for that labor.”

He noted the types of places that are millennial-friendly include urban locations like Boston, Massachusetts, Brooklyn, New York and downtown Philadelphia.

The good news is, Hughes said, is when Millennials begin to expand their families they may begin to migrate back to some suburban areas that have walkable downtowns.

“They will be looking for more space. They’ll be looking for a back yard. They’ll be looking for good schools. A good portion of them will eventually re-suburbanize,” he said.

He stressed they may not be happy moving to 1960s or 1970s subdivisions, from which they'd have to drive a few miles to get to stores or restaurants. But he also pointed out New Jersey has many smaller municipalities with downtown areas, and NJ Transit has more than 200 rail stations, with most of them connecting to lines that serve New York and Philadelphia.

The report was co-authored by Will Irving, a research associate at the Bloustein School.

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