From the Star Ledger:
New Jersey workers now have a few more bucks in their pocket.
The average hourly earnings of New Jersey employees in the private sector went up by 4 percent over the past year, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
That’s a faster rise than from 2016 to 2017, which saw a 2 percent increase.
And heck, that’s good news for workers who are looking for a little more cash to pay everything from their weekend bar tabs to childcare or healthcare. But experts and economists said the news isn’t all roses and butterflies, as it suggests a labor shortage may be taking hold in the state.
“[Employers] are having a hard time filling open positions,” said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “There are jobs available, but applicants don’t have the education or skill level necessary.”
That tends to push wages and earnings up.
Workers in the state made, on average, $29.64 an hour in February 2018 compared to the $28.51 an hour they were making in February of last year.
Nationwide, New Jersey ranked as having the 11th-highest earning increase over the past year. Maryland had the highest average hourly earnings increase, at 6.8 percent.
It’s hard for New Jersey employers to find qualified applicants, especially younger workers who may have the needed skills but prefer to work in New York City or Philadelphia, Hughes said. A U.S. Federal Reserve survey published in January found labor shortages across the country.
“[Employers] have to increase wages for the entire job category to make it more attractive for people,” he said.
Talent wants to live in urban, walkable communities close to public transportation, and New Jersey communities that are not investing in those things will be missing out no matter how much money they offer their workers, said Pete Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future.
“We’ve underestimated the importance of place and how it’s a major driver of wages,” Kasabach said.