NJ Spotlight: Unemployment Rate Continues to Drop, but NJ’s Economic Indicators Are Complicated

While New Jersey’s unemployment rate has been steadily dropping over the last six months, the state has also shed thousands of jobs, including in some key industries. And even as Gov. Phil Murphy has been quick to tout the drop in unemployment, business interests are focusing on the state’s poor rankings in other economic indicators.

Amid the decline in unemployment, state labor officials have been quick to highlight recent efforts to boost apprenticeship programs that provide residents with on-the-job training. In fact, yesterday during an event organized by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo was interrupted by applause after saying the number of apprenticeship programs has grown statewide by more than 40% over just the last 18 months.

“Sometimes I’m a little bit overwhelmed by the success we’ve had,” Asaro-Angelo said.

The latest drop in unemployment occurred in September when the rate fell to 3.1%, the lowest measured in recent memory in New Jersey. Murphy, a first-term Democrat, has regularly highlighted that trend, including in news releases and on social media.

Yet even with that good economic news, there is also cause for concern. For example, the state just received another dead-last ranking in a head-to-head comparison of the business climates in all 50 states, with high tax rates serving as the biggest concern. That’s something groups like the NJBIA have long identified as an impediment to economic growth.

“As long as New Jersey continues along this disappointing path, we will continue to be non-competitive in our region, we will continue to drive away businesses and residents, and we will continue to be unaffordable,” said Michele Siekerka, president and chief executive of NJBIA, the statewide business group that organized yesterday’s event to focus on the latest workforce issues in New Jersey.

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