From the Record:
New Jersey employers created 81,500 jobs last year, even more than the 65,200 originally reported, to make 2015’s employment gains the most robust since 1999, state labor officials reported Monday.
“The numbers show that the labor market and economy are much stronger than we had thought,” said James Hughes, a Rutgers University economist.
In contrast to that upbeat report, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development also announced that New Jersey lost 14,100 jobs in January, led by 10,100 jobs sliced from the generally well-paid professional and business services sector.
Even with January’s job losses, the state’s unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent for the month, down from 4.8 percent in December and below the U.S. rate of 4.9 percent. This was a sharp reversal of the pattern over the past five years, when New Jersey’s jobless rate clocked in above the national rate almost every month.
Charles Steindel, a Ramapo College economist and former chief economist in the Christie administration, called the 2015 job gains “a very encouraging number,” reflecting 2 percent job growth in a state of about 4 million workers.
“It says the state’s economy is actually growing at a reasonable clip,” he said.
“We actually outpaced the nation in 2015; New Jersey’s private-sector employment rose 2.5 percent, while the nation’s rose 2.2 percent,” said Hughes. “That’s the first time since the 1990s that New Jersey grew faster than the nation.”
Steindel said the January job losses may reflect weather patterns — especially mild weather in December that allowed more people to continue working outdoors, only to be sidelined by more wintry conditions in January, when a blizzard hit.
Hughes suggested the January job losses may be a statistical anomaly; revised January numbers are expected next week.
“We can’t take any one month to predict either a boom or a bust,” he said.