Nine years have passed since the official conclusion of the Great Recession. At first glance, the New Jersey economy appears to be running on full steam, having recouped all the jobs lost in the recession and then some more. Wage employment is hovering around 4.2 million, a new high level. With the unemployment rate declining to 4.2 percent in July, it is at its lowest level since July 2007.
Traditional economic models would have us believe that wages would be rising in such a tight labor market. Recent data indicate otherwise. A Bureau of Labor Statistics release shows that average weekly wages in New Jersey rose just 1.8 percent between the fourth quarter of 2016 and the fourth quarter of 2017 — not only trailing the nation’s 3.9 percent increase but lower than all other states in the country, except Alaska.
The market is not making the correction that’s badly needed for so many New Jersey workers struggling to make ends meet. Yet, nationally, the institutions and policies that bolstered wages, improved workplace benefits and upgraded labor standards are being dismantled or whittled down.