GSI Analysis: January ’24 Jobs Report – More Mixed News on New Jersey’s Labor Market - Garden State Initiative

GSI Analysis: January ’24 Jobs Report – More Mixed News on New Jersey’s Labor Market


GSI Analysis: January ’24 Jobs Report – More Mixed News on New Jersey’s Labor Market

Charles Steindel, Ph.D.   |   March 11, 2024

  • Unemployment rate remains mired at 4.8%–one of the highest rates in the nation–with drops in both the labor force and employment of residents.
  • But, the state’s job count up a strong 20,800—one of the highest gains in the nation.
  • Revisions in the 2022 and 2023 job numbers slightly negative.

On March 11th, New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development issued the monthly jobs report for January  2024. Dr. Charles Steindel, former Chief Economist of the State of New Jersey, analyzed the report for the Garden State Initiative:

New Jersey’s labor market remains perplexing. January was the fifth straight month the state had a 4.8% unemployment rate. The stability reflected declines of some magnitude in both the labor force (-7,500) and the number of employed state residents (-8,400). The 4.8% unemployment rate was more than a point higher than the nation’s 3.7% figure for January, and was exceeded by only California, Nevada, and DC. Within the region, New York’s rate was 4.6%, similar to ours, and Connecticut’s 4.4% was not much lower, but Delaware’s rate was 4.1%, Pennsylvania’ 3.4%, and Massachusetts’s 3.0%. New York City’s rate was 5.2%–it certainly looks like there is an issue around unemployment in the metro area.

The separate count of jobs in the state shows an utterly different picture. New Jersey gained 20,800 jobs in January, which was one of the largest increases in the nation in both absolute and percentage terms. Mining and logging (which has only 1400 jobs in total), financial activities, and leisure and hospitality had small job losses, but every other sector saw gains. Some of the increases—especially in construction and professional and business services—were probably the effect of unusually mild weather holding back normal seasonal layoffs, but all in all it was a healthy showing.

The striking divergence between the two employment measures has not been resolved by the release of today’s numbers, which include the annual revisions of both series. Since April 2023 the count of residents employed is down nearly 40,000, while the count of jobs is up nearly 80,000. The job count figure is usually seen as more accurate, but that is not something one can take to the bank.

The revisions to the job count were slightly negative for 2022 and 2023 as a whole but there was virtually no change to the figure for December 2023, and growth is now seen as a bit higher than earlier thought in the second half of last year.