TRENTON — The leisure and hospitality industry in New Jersey has exploded over the past year, responsible for 40 percent of job growth in the private sector from July 2016 to July 2017, according to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

hotel room
Yong Hian Lim, ThinkStock

The data, provided to New Jersey 101.5 by commercial real estate and investment firm CBRE, show the industry added 26,500 jobs year over year. That's more than double the previous year's growth and six times greater than each of the two years prior.

The industry encompasses a wide range of businesses and services, from restaurants to casinos and amusement parks to hotels. Tourism — responsible for $44 billion in revenue for the Garden State in 2016 — makes up a big piece of the pie.

"One out of 10 New Jersey jobs depends on tourism, whether it be direct or indirect," said Michel Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

A few factors may be driving the significant spike in jobs numbers compared to years prior, Siekerka said. Businesses long-affected by Superstorm Sandy are beginning to resurface. Siekerka also points to growth and development in shore towns such as Asbury Park and Long Branch.

"You see new housing, and where you see new housing, ordinarily you see the secondary industries coming around to support that housing," she said.

According to Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, Atlantic City is also making a big difference in employment numbers after years of steady decline.

Atlantic City's remaining seven casinos brought in $1.8 billion through August this year, compared to $1.6 over the same period last year, state gambling figures show. Gambling revenue in August alone was nearly $13 million greater than revenue in August 2016.

"I think the ship in Atlantic City is stabilizing a lot, and hopefully we're even going to see a bigger increase next year with the Hard Rock coming in," Halvorsen said.

New Jersey workers in leisure and hospitality, meanwhile, saw a wage increase of nearly 11 percent — greater than any other industry.

An analysis of BLS data by CRBE noted New Jersey ranked fifth in the nation for wage growth among all private sector jobs.

In all, the private sector in New Jersey added 66,600 jobs in the year leading up to July 2017.

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