From the Record:
Ikea is hiring — and so are Hackensack University Medical Center, Public Service Electric and Gas Co., Eisai and Toys “R” Us, among other North Jersey employers. With New Jersey’s unemployment rate at its lowest point since 2007 — dropping to 4.3 percent in February — North Jersey employers and hiring counselors say the outlook for jobseekers is the brightest it’s been in years.
“There’s more out there; there’s more opportunity,” said Sandra Leshaw, director of Re-Launch Career Services at Jewish Family Services in Teaneck.
The highest demand is for workers with skills in health care and technology. Construction workers also are likely to find more opportunities now and in the coming months, thanks to a revival in home building, along with large-scale projects like Fort Lee’s downtown redevelopment, the American Dream project in East Rutherford, and plans for several new hotels in the region. Retail, manufacturing and warehousing also are hiring.
Still, challenges remain for jobseekers in North Jersey. The state added 81,500 jobs last year — the highest total since 1999. But this year’s jobs numbers have been less promising. In January and February, New Jersey lost a total of 24,300 jobs, many of them in the well-paid professional and business services sector, as well as in education and health. New Jersey’s job numbers for March are to be released Thursday.
The state still hasn’t made up all the jobs lost in the 2007-09 recession. By contrast, the nation has almost 6 million more jobs than it did before the recession.
Although the labor market has tightened, wages haven’t moved much, when adjusted for inflation. Under the laws of supply and demand, wages would be expected to rise as employers compete for scarcer workers.
But so far, that hasn’t happened. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, wages nationwide rose about 2.3 percent in the 12 months ending in March — a bit higher than 2 percent range of recent years. Even Janet Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, said there’s still enough slack in the workforce to keep wages from heating up.
Eisai Inc., a pharmaceutical company in Woodcliff Lake, is one employer that has seen wages pushed up by competition for experienced employees in its highly specialized industry.
“Top candidates have their choice of jobs,” said Lucille Naclerio, director of human resources. “Companies now need to position themselves to stand out.”
Eisai has 48 open positions in New Jersey, up 35 percent from a year ago.
Ryan Sanzari, director of operations for the real estate developer Alfred Sanzari Enterprises in Hackensack, said that paychecks in the building trades might soon reflect the rising demand for construction skills.
“If a carpenter has seven jobs going on at once, he’s going to throw higher numbers at you,” Sanzari said.
Even with the increased hiring, not all the news is positive. Many of New Jersey’s new jobs are in lower-paid industries such as restaurants and retail, where a paycheck often cannot support a household. And many workers who lost their jobs in the 2007-09 recession have struggled to get back into the workforce — especially if they’re older.
“There’s discrimination against older workers,” said Tammy Molinelli, head of the Bergen County Workforce Development Board. “That’s frustrating for us. We see so many talented people walking through the door.”
Many of those returning to the workforce after long periods of unemployment have had to take pay cuts, said Christopher Irving, head of the Passaic County Workforce Development Board.
Prospects are most difficult for job hunters without basic skills — such as proficiency in English, writing and simple math. These days, even entry-level office jobs require familiarity with Microsoft Word and Excel, said Molinelli.
“In the 21st century, technology is the way we communicate,” she said. The state’s One-Stop Career Centers offer training in basic technology skills, she said.
Both Molinelli and Irving said employers are looking for “soft skills,” such as being able to arrive at work on time, meet deadlines and get along with colleagues and clients.
“You’re not going to function in a work environment if you can’t work on a team, solve problems and communicate,” Molinelli said.