Employment in New Jersey has finally fully recovered from the losses suffered during the economic shutdowns imposed in the first months of the pandemic, according to preliminary estimates released by the state Thursday.
Estimates produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report a record-high number of jobs in the state in August for the first time in two and a half years – 4,241,200, a gain of 15,400 from a month earlier and 12,800 above the previous high set in February 2020.
In the pandemic’s first two months, when only businesses deemed essential could open and restaurants were limited to takeout service, employment in the state plunged by 732,600, more than 17% of all the jobs in New Jersey.
New Jersey’s economy has now gained jobs in 21 consecutive months.
The unemployment rate rose by 0.3 percentage points in August to 4%, the highest in four months.
That was mostly driven by an increase in labor force participation, which reached its highest level since June 2021, which the state labor department described as a signal that more workers are seeking jobs because of strong labor conditions. But unemployment was also at a four-month high at 188,700.
“While it is disappointing that New Jersey’s unemployment rate increased, and that our gap with the national rate ticked up, the message of the report is that job growth in the state remains strong, and it may be the case that people who had withdrawn from the labor force are coming back to look for jobs,” said former state chief economist Charles Steindel, in a report for the conservative Garden State Initiative.