The Central New Jersey economy remains weak according to the latest data. Current Employment Survey data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show a decrease of 2,400 (0.2%) in total non-farm payroll jobs in Central New Jersey from July 2011 to July 2012 for the two metropolitan areas/divisions in the area combined. (The Edison-New Brunswick, NJ Metropolitan Division of the New York Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), and the Trenton-Ewing MSA). Although the private sector gained a modest 4,400 jobs (0.4%), the Government sector lost another 6,800 (3.4%). Trenton is the state capital of New Jersey, and the state is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. “Major tax revenue in the fiscal year that ended in June fell $253 million short of Gov. Chris Christie’s expectations, delivering a potential punishing blow to the state’s already weak surplus and raising new questions about the governor’s optimistic projections for the current year,” The Star-Ledger reported in September. According to household-based data from the BLS, moreover, unemployment was back in double-digits in July, well above the national average.
Economic weakness persists despite job growth in distribution-oriented sectors. Wholesale Trade was up by 2,100 jobs (3.4%) year-over-year in July, and Transportation and Utilities was up 600 (1.4%). Other industrial sectors, however, remained mired in the recession. The Manufacturing sector, which includes extensive pharmaceutical production and research, lost 1,700 jobs (2.5%) in the year to July, with Construction and related sectors down by another 2,100 jobs (5.0%). The latter sector is down 16,400 jobs (29.0%) from July 2007. The local office-based sectors both lost jobs in the latest July-to-July period after having gained jobs in the previous 12 months. The year-over-year losses were 1,200 (1.6%) in Financial Activities and 2,100 (1.0%) in Professional and Business Services. The latter sector is particularly critical here, accounting for 17.0% of all jobs in 2011 according to CES data compared with just 13.2% in the U.S. as a whole. No other sector is as disproportionately large here. The Information sector, meanwhile, also lost jobs in the latest July-to-July period, in this case 800 (2.6%).
The strongest sector during the latest July-to-July period was Leisure and Hospitality, with an increase of 8,200 jobs (7.5%) from July 2011 to July 2012. All of the increase is accounted for by the Edison-New Brunswick, NJ Metropolitan Division, which includes Monmouth and Ocean counties along the northern part of the Jersey Shore. The Retail Trade sector, on the other hand, lost 3,500 jobs year-over-year. This despite population growth at about 0.6% to 0.7% per year (15,000 to 19,000) according to Moody’s Economy.com, well in excess of the Northeast Region average, and above average incomes. Moody’s Economy.com reports a 2.0% increase in household average income here in the year to the second quarter of 2012.