New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development recently issued the monthly jobs report for April 2021. Dr. Charles Steindel, former Chief Economist of the State of New Jersey and current Resident Scholar, Anisfield School of Business at Ramapo College, analyzed the report for the Garden State Initiative:
New Jersey eked out a minor 3,900 gain in jobs in April, the lion’s share of which was a 3,000 increase in leisure and hospitality. All other sectors saw either minor losses or gains. Our experience mirrored that of the nation, which also saw a small increase more than accounted for by leisure and hospitality.
A gain in jobs may be seen as better than a drop, but at April’s rate it would take another 7 years to get New Jersey’s job count back to its February 2020 peak While the one modestly bright spot was leisure and hospitality, which has gained more than 18,000 jobs since December, the sector is still more than 90,000 short of its peak.
There is considerable debate as to what held back job growth in April. Many contend that the extra $300 in unemployment benefits have been an important factor keeping workers from accepting one of the many job openings. Undoubtedly this has been an element at work, but it’s also the case that leisure and hospitality, the one sector that has shown recent strength, mainly offers fairly low-paying positions. Hopefully, the softness in April will turn out to be transitory—given the surge in income and spending, and many surveys showing business activity picking up, that seems plausible.
New Jersey’s labor force, resident employment, and unemployment were very comparable to the job numbers. There were small increases in both the labor force and resident employment, and the unemployment rate edged down to 7.5%. The national unemployment rate ticked up to 6.1%, so our gap with the nation narrowed slightly, but remains large.