Jersey jobs: What are the prospects for the future?


Sometimes, you put two employment reports up against each other and you just want to cry. That happened to me on Thursday when I looked at the jobs report from New Jersey and ran the results against a new survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the Chicago company that helps unemployed people find jobs.

So, in one report, the monthly jobs report from New Jersey's Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Jersey's May numbers are looking better and better, considering the state had lagged behind the nation in job recovery. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent, the lowest in four years. The private sector added 15,400 jobs, bringing total private sector employment up to 3,337,100. That's 145,000 private sector jobs added since lowest point in the economic downturn for private sector hiring -- February 2010, when there were 3,192,000 jobs.

So, we'll give New Jersey chief economist Charles Steindel a moment to brag, before we mix these results with the other report and some other statistics. "New Jersey's labor market is clearly getting healthier, with continuing gains in employment and jobs, and the unemployment rate on a downtrend," he said in a press release.

Now here's the other statistic: At the height of employment, before the most recent and devastating recession kicked in, there were 3,436,300 people working in the private sector. That was in February 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To recap: The height: 3,436,300 on payrolls.

The pits: 3,192,000.

The difference: 244,300 jobs lost.

The current situation: 3,337,100, up 145,100 jobs from the pits, but still 99,200 jobs short from the peak.

Now for the other report: Challenger, Gray & Christmas surveyed employers and found that 43 percent of them indicated that they will meet their future demands with fewer employees, suggesting they will never reach pre-recession payroll peaks.

With that statistic in mind, how likely is it that all of those 99,200 jobs will ever be replaced? And digging out of that 244,300-job hole doesn't even take into consideration the necessity of creating jobs for New Jersey's expanding labor force. (See why I want to cry?) In the last year, Jersey's workforce grew by 29,000 people.

John A. Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, had this to say: “What we have come to know as ‘the jobless recovery’ may be the new post-recession norm as employers rebuild their workforces from scratch, take more time to vet candidates, and find ways to operate with fewer workers.”