Wells Fargo survey finds modest economic gains in NJ
The report, "Northeastern States: 2015 Economic Outlook," suggested reasons for some cautious optimism about the future of the Garden State and also provided answers for why New Jersey's rebound has been so much slower than surrounding states.
"One easy area is Atlantic City," said Mike Wolf, economist for Wells Fargo. "The gaming industry is certainly a weak spot, but more notable maybe is that a traditionally strong industry like the pharmaceutical industry has really struggled in the state, and a number of corporate relocations outside of New Jersey have really limited growth prospects."
One of the most recent, notable corporate losses was Mercedes-Benz, which is moving its U.S. headquarters to Atlanta. Wolf said it is good news that more New Jersey residents are working, but bad news that not enough of them are employed in their home state.
"The number of people who live in New Jersey who are saying that they are employed has started to grow again, and the number of people who are reporting that they work in New Jersey has seen relatively flat growth," Wolf said.
The report has some other good news. The housing market and the construction industry, two key drivers of the state's economy, have both seen gains, but high housing costs remain a serious issue for residents and businesses.
"Having new construction has all sorts of spillover effects, and we really are seeing that in New Jersey, and one of the strongest industries that is growing within the state is the construction industry," Wolf said. "Construction employment is about 8 percent higher than it was a year ago -- granted, it's coming from some depressed levels."
According to revised data released Thursday by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, private sector employment in New Jersey increased by 8,500 for the first quarter of 2015, with over-the-year growth (March 2014 to March 2015) of 44,800 jobs.