GSI Analysis: March ’22 Jobs Report: New Jersey Jobs Recovery Continues, but Labor Force Still Lagging - Garden State Initiative

GSI Analysis: March ’22 Jobs Report: New Jersey Jobs Recovery Continues, but Labor Force Still Lagging


GSI Analysis: March ’22 Jobs Report: New Jersey Jobs Recovery Continues, but Labor Force Still Lagging

April 14, 2022

  • Unemployment rate down to 4.2 percent, but still higher than the nation’s 3.6%

  • Jobs recovered now approaching 2020 pre-pandemic peak

  • Labor force lower than at any time since Nov. 2020 as participation continues to sag

On April 14th, New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development issued the monthly jobs report for March 2022. Dr. Charles Steindel, former Chief Economist of the State of New Jersey, analyzed the report for the Garden State Initiative:

Charles Steindel, Ph.D.

New Jersey’s March labor market news showed another solid gain in jobs. The 17,800 increase (all but 200 in the private sector) marked the 7th straight month in which the state gained at least 10,000 jobs. The total number of jobs reported in March was 53,200 under the February 2020 peak. Since the recovery began, the state has regained more than 90% of the jobs lost in the recession. It now seems likely, barring a serious slowdown in the national economy, that a new peak should be set this year. However, it is also likely that the heady pace of job growth seen in the first three months of 2022 (the March job number was a whopping 58,400 higher than December’s) won’t continue.

March job growth was widespread, but the gains were more pronounced in the private service-producing sectors, particularly leisure and hospitality, which picked up 4,900 positions—more than 1 percent. Still, more than half the remaining aggregate job gap from the February 2020 peak is in this sector, which accounts for fewer than 10% of the state’s jobs.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.2% in March, compared to February’s 4.6%. New Jersey still has a higher unemployment rate than the nation’s 3.6%. It may be that in tomorrow’s release of the numbers from all the states, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will no longer see that difference as “statistically significant,” but it is still there.

The drop in unemployment was primarily the result of a 19,000 gain in employed state residents. There was also, though, a 4,000 drop in the state’s labor force, continuing the mystery of the weakness there. The state’s labor force in March reached its lowest level since November 2020This is in contrast to recent reasonably strong increases in the nation’s labor force. The difference with the nation is due to more than slower population growth here: our labor force participation rate has been dropping, while the nation’s has been rising. At this time, it is very hard to understand the slackness in New Jersey’s labor force participation, especially in light of the strong job environment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will issue its monthly “State Employment and Unemployment” report on Friday, April 15th, which offers a comparison of how New Jersey is faring relative to other states.