From the Star Ledger:
After staggering the past two years, the state’s economy won’t be able to walk tall again until employers start hiring in a meaningful way.
Companies — big and small — are cautious about adding to payrolls in 2011 because the economic recovery has been so tepid.
But there is evidence that job growth is starting to pick up and that some companies will make modest increases to their work force. The question is whether the labor momentum will be sustainable.
New Jersey lost more than 245,000 private sector jobs during the Great Recession, according to Joseph Seneca, a professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
“That’s a deep and significant loss — almost as many as we lost during the 1980-81 recession,” he said. “We’ve only gained back about 10,700 jobs thus far, so we’ve got a long road ahead.”
The jobs picture will depend on whether consumers open their wallets and purses as they did during the holiday shopping season.
But there has been pushback on the costliest items.
Real estate sales are sporadic in New Jersey, and car sales are picking up but nowhere near their level a few years ago.
Some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, are retrenching, but there could be room for nimble biotech firms to step in and prosper. Small businesses continue to struggle with health care costs and a dearth of orders.
“I would describe the homebuilding business now as more intensely managed than before the economic downturn,” said Paul Schneier, who heads PulteGroup’s Northeast division. “Without the help of rising prices, operational inefficiencies become very evident.”
Those trends will likely continue in the new year because experts say the housing market may not get better any time soon.
The foreclosure problem isn’t going away, even while the state cracks down on lending practices, said Jeffrey Otteau, an appraiser and president of the Otteau Valuation Group in East Brunswick.
Instead, the future of the housing market, experts predict, will be more European: People will choose to rent and live near a city center, jobs and public transportation. That model is more attractive to people who face stagnant incomes, tight lending restrictions, compromised credit scores or foreclosure.
But if the price is right, people will buy, experts said.