News Column

Economist Says Jobs Outlook Bleak in South Jersey

June 28, 2013

Leisure and hospitality jobs, government jobs and overall jobs fell in Atlantic County in May from one year ago, according to data presented Thursday by a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics economist.

These trends counter statewide gains in those industries, highlighting an aspect of the region's struggles in a local economy more sluggish than the national and state ones.

Two bright spots for Atlantic County in May were retail and construction. Retail added 1,400 jobs, or nearly 9 percent, according to the preliminary data.

And construction, which includes homes and roads, added 1,000 jobs, a nearly 22 percent increase from May 2012.

BLS Economist Lisa Boily provided the figures during a presentation at the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division's Prevailing Wage Conference at the Atlantic City Convention Center.

Immediately after Hurricane Sandy in October, unemployment rates dropped in most New Jersey counties, including Atlantic, Cumberland and Cape May, she said.

In New Jersey in May, 66,500 nonfarm jobs were added compared with May 2012, including 19,200 in education and health services, 7,000 in government and 3,000 in leisure and hospitality.

"Money is starting to flow into the economy now from FEMA grants, housing assistance, SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) loans (and) national flood insurance, (and) home inspections are beginning to be completed," she said to a small group of people in mostly construction-related industries who attended the presentation.

"This is lubricating the recovery effort, and this is going to affect you, because people are going to need you to rebuild," she said.

By comparison, Atlantic County's total jobs fell by 4,200, a 3 percent decline in May compared with a year ago, according to BLS data. This included a loss of 6,200 leisure and hospitality jobs, a more than 12 percent decline.

Government jobs also fell by 300 in May in Atlantic County.

New Jersey construction jobs increased by almost 4 percent but was not nearly as high as Atlantic County's construction job growth in May.

"If you go into residential shore towns in Ocean City and Margate, they're booming on residential work, and that's because the residents there are seasonal and have the money and are building new custom homes," said David Roncinske, a business representative for Wharf and Dock Builders, Pile Drivers and Divers Local Union 454 in Philadelphia, which represents South Jersey.

But for many of his union's members, which he said do not deal as much in residential work, the impacts of the economy and Atlantic City's struggling casino industry have been obvious.

"In general, traditionally our employment was divided between private and public. Now, it's almost exclusively public -- roads and bridges," he said.



Source: (c)2013 The Press of Atlantic City (Pleasantville, N.J.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.