Reconciling rising unemployment and strong job growth: NJ’s uncertain fiscal outlook

September 25, 2023

New Jersey’s unemployment rate has steadily risen over the past year and now ranks among the highest in the nation. But while some economists and others suggest that’s a cause for concern, the topline numbers may not tell the full story.

The state unemployment rate has soared from 3% to 4.2% over the past year, according to the latest jobs report released by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

That easily tops the national jobless rate of 3.8%. It also puts New Jersey among the states with the highest unemployment rates in the country, with Nevada topping out at over 5%…

According to Will Irving, a professor of practice at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, it’s not unusual to have divergent indicators when it comes to the jobs and unemployment data because the results come from two different surveys.

Irving also said it’s important to remember New Jersey, just before the latest increase in the unemployment rate, had been enjoying a period of significant job growth coming out of the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We came out of the pandemic employment recession pretty strongly, particularly compared to our regional peers,” said Irving, who researches historical trends and also does economic forecasting.

The increase in unemployment experienced over the past year or so in New Jersey has also come amid a series of interest rate hikes enacted by the Federal Reserve as part of efforts to tame inflation, which remains higher than the Fed’s goal of 2%.

That suggests New Jersey could be on the leading edge of a rising unemployment trend that could spread to other states in due time.

“This year, we’ve kind of crested, and turned the corner, and I would expect, over the next several quarters, to see other states start to see a similar move,” Irving said, before adding, “New Jersey certainly could conceivably get hit a little harder.”

NJ Spotlight News, September 25, 2023


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