NJ adds 12K jobs in December, nearly 70K total in 2023 - Garden State Initiative



NJ adds 12K jobs in December, nearly 70K total in 2023

Matthew Fazelpoor   |   January 19, 2024   |   As Seen In NJBIZ


The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development released its December 2023 jobs report Thursday, showing the state gained 12,200 jobs last month, closing out the year with a seasonally adjusted level of 4.37 million — up 69,600 jobs from a year ago.

The labor department points out that the bulk of December’s job growth came in the private sector (+10,900) while the public sector recorded a gain of 1,300 jobs, mostly in local government.

Seven out of the nine major sectors saw job gains:

  • Education and health services +4,300
  • Construction +3,800
  • Leisure and hospitality +1,600
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities +1,600
  • Manufacturing +700
  • Other services +400
  • Information +100

The only sector that saw a dip was professional and business services (-1,600); the financial activities sector was unchanged.

A revision to the November jobs report added 400 to that total, which is now +4,500.


While that is all positive news, the unemployment rate did again tick up to 4.8% and the state’s labor force participation rate fell slightly for the fourth time in as many months.

“Once again, the two major sets of numbers for New Jersey’s labor market diverged sharply. Let’s begin with the positive news: the total number of jobs in the state is estimated to have grown 12,200 in December,” said Charles Steindel, former chief economist for the State of New Jersey, in his analysis of the report for Morristown-based research and educational organization Garden State Initiative (GSI). “That’s the fifth straight gain, and the largest one since January. Except for professional and business services, all major sectors grew (or showed no change) Education and health services was the strongest with an increase of 4,300.”

Steindel then noted the actual number of residents employed, which he described as the bad news.

“The state’s unemployment rate moved up 4.8%, with marked losses in both the labor force (down 7,600) and the resident employment count (down 11,400),” Steindel explained. “So, in December there was a remarkable divergence of 23,600 between the changes in the number of jobs and the number of residents at work.

“There are differences between these two measures: 1) the job count includes inbound commuters and people who have more than one job; but 2) the resident employment figures includes the self-employed and outbound commuters. The two are derived from different samples and have independent seasonal adjustment factors, so divergence is to be expected, but the recent gaps are fairly remarkable,” he continued.

Steindel said those numbers will be subject to annual revisions, which could potentially reduce the gap.

2023 review

As for that year-end total showing 69,600 more jobs from a year ago – about 75% of those were in the private sector (+17,200 in the public sector) with five of the nine main sectors showing a gain in 2023:

  • Education and health services +42,600
  • Leisure and hospitality +13,900
  • Manufacturing +2,400
  • Construction +2,300
  • Information +600

The sectors that recorded losses in 2023 were:

  • Professional and business services -8,500
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities -600
  • Other services -400

Financial activities saw no change.

“For 2023 as a whole, resident employment averaged about 85,000 higher than in 2022, while the job numbers were about 90,000 higher than in 2022. So, the difference appears to reflect very different movements during the year – the resident employment count was much stronger in the first half, and much weaker in the second half,” said Steindel. “It’s possible that these differences will be ironed out in the revision process, and it could be that the unemployment rates in recent months would also be reduced, but, if so, likely at the expense of higher figures for the first half of 2023 (the January unemployment rate was 3.4%).”

“Still, even if that scenario plays out, the data will likely continue to show that for 2023, as a whole, unemployment in the state was higher than in 2022, and probably rising over the course of the year – people have been finding it harder to find a job,” Steindel concluded.

Manufacturing growth

Following the release of the jobs report, New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan pointed to the job growth figures in December, and in 2023 broadly, as evidence of the state’s economic momentum.

“12k new jobs in December (and 70k for 2023!),” Sullivan wrote in a post on social media website X. “2,400 new manufacturing jobs in NJ in 2023 is really really positive – continues trend where Gov Murphy is only gov in modern NJ history to see sustained manufacturing job growth. Of course, we have real challenges and macroeconomic headwinds – but businesses and people are choosing NJ more so than at any time in recent history.”

In a press release put out Jan. 12, the labor department recapped the year that was – touting efforts in a number of areas, while laying out its goals for the year ahead.

Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo noted the minimum wage is now above $15 per hour for most employees and that the workforce is thriving, with 4.3 million workers and a nearly 25% growth among private sector worksites versus six years ago when the Murphy administration began.

“NJDOL is proud to uphold the generous benefits and protections that have put New Jersey at the forefront for workers’ rights,” said Asaro-Angelo. “The state has made significant investments to train and develop a highly skilled and diverse workforce, so it’s only right that workers are treated fairly throughout their careers. It’s these very rights that underpin a robust and resilient economy, making the Garden State the best place to live, work, and do business. So, we begin the new year recommitted to fulfilling our mission of protecting workers, strengthening businesses, and promoting the dignity of work.”

“In the time remaining with this administration, we’re aiming to set New Jersey residents up for success, and not leave any unfinished business,” he added. “Each year has presented new sets of challenges, but also new opportunities for progress, and we’re ready for what the future brings.”