Jobs in NJ erase pandemic losses — but here’s how economy changed
TRENTON – Employment in New Jersey has finally fully recovered from the losses suffered during the economic shutdowns imposed in the first months of the pandemic, according to preliminary estimates released by the state Thursday.
Estimates produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report a record-high number of jobs in the state in August for the first time in two and a half years – 4,241,200, a gain of 15,400 from a month earlier and 12,800 above the previous high set in February 2020.
In the pandemic’s first two months, when only businesses deemed essential could open and restaurants were limited to takeout service, employment in the state plunged by 732,600, more than 17% of all the jobs in New Jersey.
New Jersey’s economy has now gained jobs in 21 consecutive months.
While total employment has recovered, few sectors are back to exactly where they were in February 2020, as the economy evolves:
- Total private-sector employment is up by 346,000, or 1%.
- The number of goods-producing jobs is down 10,500, or 2.5%, to 406,500.
- Construction jobs are down 5,500, or 3.4%, to 158,500.
- Manufacturing jobs are down 4,900, or 1.9%, to 246,600.
- The number of service-providing jobs is up 23,300, or 0.6%, to 3,834,700.
- That includes an increase of 45,100 private-sector service jobs, up 1.4% to 3,249,400.
- Those gains were partially offset by a drop of 21,800 public-sector service jobs, down 3.6% to 585,300.
- Trade, transportation and utilities jobs are up 26,800, or 3%, to 916,000.
- Information sector jobs are down 100, or 0.1%, to 71,000.
- Financial activities jobs are up 6,600, or 2.6%, to 260,500.
- Professional and business services jobs are up 30,400, or 4.4%, to 715,200.
- Education and health services jobs are down 900, or 0.1%, to 729,000.
- Leisure and hospitality jobs are down 12,400, or 3.1%, to 388,700.
- And other private-sector service-providing jobs are down 5,300, or 3.1%, to 168,100.
The unemployment rate rose by 0.3 percentage points in August to 4%, the highest in four months.
That was mostly driven by an increase in labor force participation, which reached its highest level since June 2021, which the state labor department described as a signal that more workers are seeking jobs because of strong labor conditions. But unemployment was also at a four-month high at 188,700.
“While it is disappointing that New Jersey’s unemployment rate increased, and that our gap with the national rate ticked up, the message of the report is that job growth in the state remains strong, and it may be the case that people who had withdrawn from the labor force are coming back to look for jobs,” said former state chief economist Charles Steindel, in a report for the conservative Garden State Initiative.
The job gains in July were revised higher based on more complete data, at 13,800 rather than 6,300. With that, the state had very nearly achieved its 100% recovery from pandemic job losses in July with little fanfare, falling just 2,600 short.