At the beginning of this year, when the COVID vaccine rollout started, there was discussion about a possible economic bounce-back during the second half of the year if enough New Jerseyans got vaccinated, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations started dropping and people started going out and spending money again.

According to Rutgers University economist James Hughes, that’s exactly what’s happened. He says the economic revival would be even more robust right now except for the fact that “all of a sudden we have labor shortages, restaurants have ‘we are now hiring’ signs, and so we have a series of potential bottlenecks that are going to slow the recovery somewhat.”

He said while the worker shortage is going to impact the bounce-back, “it’s not going to be a devastating impact. But essentially it’s going to act as a sort of speed bump to what we really could achieve if we had the labor to fill the open positions.”

Experts believe the worker shortage is the result of several factors, including a lack of available childcare facilities for working parents, lingering concerns about COVID, and people who are making more collecting unemployment benefits than they would be working.

Hughes noted down the shore, many seasonal businesses usually hire younger temporary workers from other countries “but with international travel being severely constricted, that is adding to the labor force shortages that exist.”

Hughes said the flurry of economic activity taking place in New Jersey right now isn’t surprising at all “given the fact that there’s a lot of built-up capital, a lot of built-up savings, people want to unleash demand and be very, very active.”

“People have been anxious to get back to the way life used to be and domestic travel has bounced back much quicker than many airline executives expected," he said.

He said in New Jersey and across the nation right now we have a record number of job openings and a record number of quits.

“Quits are a very positive indicator because it means people can say take this job and shove it, I’m going to find a better job elsewhere,” he said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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