News Column

NJ Payrolls Take Big Hit

Nov. 16, 2012

Hugh R. Morley

empty pockets

New Jersey's job growth is basically flat for the year after Thursday's release of October figures that show the state lost 11,700 jobs, the biggest one-month decline since June 2009. And the prospects for November are no better, with more losses expected as the result of superstorm Sandy.

The state lost 9,400 private sector and 2,300 government jobs in October, based on a survey completed before the storm, bringing the total employment gain this year to 17,600, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

The jobless rate, which fell to 9.7 percent from 9.8 percent, remained well above the national rate of 7.9 percent.

Thursday's report also revised downward the employment figure for September, showing a loss of 2,700 jobs instead of the previously announced loss of 1,200 jobs.

"The worrisome aspect of this report is that over the last several months prior to Hurricane Sandy, the national economy was adding jobs at a steady rate while New Jersey payroll employment fell," said Joseph Seneca, an economist and professor at Rutgers University.

James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, said the report provides a mixed picture of the economy because the two surveys on which it is based - - one of employer payrolls and the other of people polled at home -- give contradictory reports.

The employer survey shows the state losing jobs, but the household survey suggests employment is increasing, a change that helped push the jobless rate down.

"All I can say is 'strange,' " said Hughes. "I am really at a loss. .... On the payrolls, it's certainly not a good start to the fourth quarter."

He noted that the biggest fall in employment came in the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 9,700 jobs. Such a decline could be due to layoffs in seasonal industries as the summer ends, Hughes said, but employment figures are adjusted to smooth out those kinds of changes that happen every year. The report did not attribute the decline to seasonal factors.

Both Hughes and Seneca said they expect employment to fall next month, reflecting job losses due to the storm. In a possible preview of those numbers, for the week ending Nov. 3, New Jersey saw an increase of 5,675 in first-time jobless claims, caused by temporary job losses in construction, hotels and restaurants and manufacturing, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

The decline in October in the leisure and hospitality sector was about equally divided between the arts, entertainment and recreation sector and the accommodation and food services sector. The next- biggest loss came in the decline of 2,700 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. The education and health services sector lost 2,100 jobs. The biggest gain came in construction, which added 4,500 jobs. The professional and business services sector added 1,200 jobs.

Charles Steindel, the state Treasury Department's chief economist, said that "the headline number, the unemployment rate, is going the right way. Much too slowly, but going the right way."

"I think the major thing is, you can't make too much of month-to- month movements," he said.

Source: (C) 2012 The Record, Bergen County, NJ. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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