(The Center Square) – New Jersey’s October job report shows some signs that recovery is slowing down, but more people are entering the work force, which could be a good sign, according to Dr. Charles Steindel, former New Jersey state economist and resident scholar at the Anisfield School of Business at Ramapo College.
The number of jobs increased by $481,500 from April to September but declined by 5,200 in October. New Jersey has regained about 57 percent of the jobs lost because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to information from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
“Job losses in October were, however, concentrated in the public sector, which saw an 18,000 [person] decline,” Steindel said in an analysis published by the Garden State Initiative. “The details of the government losses are not yet available, but certainly the end of temporary Census jobs played a part.”
The leisure and hospitality industry added 5,700 jobs. It was a small gain that could be erased as the number of coronavirus cases is increasing.
“While leisure and hospitality is not that large a sector for New Jersey as a whole, compared to other states it is absolutely critical for some areas.” Steindel said.
The effects of pandemic closures hit Atlantic County hard, according to the numbers. The county had the largest decline in jobs from 2019’s second quarter to the second quarter of 2020 with a 34.2 percent loss. But the county also had an average wage gain of 22.5 percent. That happened because most of the job losses were among low-wage workers and gave the county an artificial boost in wages, according to Steindel.
The state’s unemployment rate for October is 8.2 percent, an increase of 1.5 percent points from September.
“The extraordinary increase in unemployment occurred even though the number of New Jersey residents working rose by almost 16,000,” Steindel said. “Much more than offsetting the increase in employment was a remarkable 89,000 boost to the state’s labor force. October’s sharp labor force gain, though, made up for little more than one-third of September’s plunge of more than 250,000, which drove the force participation rate to a 44-year low of 61.4 percent.”
The decline in the unemployment rate may actually be good news as it could mean that more people are reentering the labor force and are hopeful they will find a job, according to Steindel.
Nationally, 31,000 people filed first-time unemployment claims during the week that ended Nov. 14. More than 20 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits as of Oct. 31.