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Just when you thought it was safe to come out.
New Jersey’s job market, which showed signs of life early this year, slumped in June, leaving the Garden State 36th in job growth nationwide, according to statistics released during the past week.
“I have a feeling this is that pattern of three steps forward, one step back,” said James W. Hughes, an economist and dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “It’s not a smooth, even pattern of job growth.”
New Jersey’s rocky path to recovery has grabbed national attention thanks to Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential bid. But there are stronger forces at work.
Perhaps the biggest? New Jersey’s suburban landscape – with isolated corporate campuses, sprawling housing developments, and long, gas-guzzling commutes – was a strength in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it has fallen out of favor in the new economy, Hughes said.
The giant millennial generation, now in its 20s and 30s, is quickly replacing the baby boom generation in the workplace. It is technically savvy. It prizes teamwork. It doesn’t mind mass transit. It can work any time of the day. And employers are following them, Hughes said.
The shift has prompted New Jersey business groups and entrepreneurs to call on the state to adapt – whether to fix the crumbling transportation network or finds ways employers can partner with high schools and colleges to convince talented students to stay in New Jersey.
“The paradigm shift is, let’s forget about the blame game,” Tom Bracken, president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said during a recent interview. “Let’s forget about having 15 hearings on the (depleted) transportation trust fund; what else do you need to know? Let’s talk about hearings and meetings where we have solutions and identify the real problems that we need to address, and find ways to start working on those problems.”