From the Star Ledger:
Federal jobs reports point to a rebounding labor market, though the unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent in March. But the percentage of jobless residents out of work 27 weeks or more remains historically high.
Nationally, about 30 percent of jobless residents have been unemployed at least 27 weeks.
The situation is much worse in New Jersey.
Of 302,000 unemployed residents in New Jersey in 2014, roughly 41 percent, or 125,000 people, have been out of work at least 27 weeks, according to federal labor data. Though down from a peak of about 51 percent in 2010, the data still mean New Jersey’s long-term jobless rate is among the highest in the nation.
Only New Mexico and Washington, D.C., posted higher rates in 2014. North Dakota, Iowa and Alaska, on the other hand, had the lowest long-term unemployment rates in the country last year.
Carl Van Horn, director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, said there are several reasons New Jersey’s long-term unemployment has remained higher than most states. He pointed to steep job losses in the financial and construction industries during the Great Recession, which hit New Jersey hard, and a slow recovery in those areas. He also noted some jobs, like many in the pharmaceutical industry, have left the state altogether.
“Those are what make New Jersey different but there are many things that make New Jersey the same,” Van Horn said, noting that the longer a person remains unemployed the more difficult it becomes to get a job.
Kerri Gatling, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, noted gains in employment in the private sector since 2010 and upward revisions to job growth estimates for 2013 and 2014. Gatling said that indicates steady improvement in the state’s economy despite the effects of Hurricane Sandy and casinos shuttering in Atlantic City.
“We have a ways to go here, and we will not be satisfied until everyone who wants a job, gets a job. But the employment situation is improving in the state,” Gatling said.
For 15 years, Kent said, he worked as director of information technology for a retail chain until he lost his job in June. His unemployment benefits, he said, ran out in December.
“I’ve been struggling since then,” the 42-year-old Hawthorne resident said. “I’ve had interviews. I’ve had a mix of either working via recruiters or directly with the company but the majority of them seem to have the same results: nobody even responds back to you.”
Kent said he and his wife think they soon will face foreclosure. He said he plans to continue working toward finding a job in New Jersey but if that doesn’t pan out he said they may move out of state to look for work.
“I’m never giving up. I have responsibilities,” Kent said, but, “I did not think it would be this hard. I truly didn’t. I had no idea.”