According to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, New Jersey is among the states facing more difficulties to restore jobs since the COVID recession. The economic slump caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has hit New Jersey harder than most other states. Significantly fewer working-age Garden State residents were employed in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the report.
As published by nj.com, the Pew report found 76.4% of New Jerseyans aged 25 to 54 had jobs last year, down from 82.7% in 2019, before the pandemic hit the U.S. That 6.3% decline was the fourth biggest among the 50 states, tied with Rhode Island.
These numbers mean that for every 100 New Jersey residents of prime working age, six fewer had jobs due to the pandemic.
Bob Considine, a spokesman for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association holds that a possible explanation could be the time assigned to the measures intended to curb coronavirus infection cases.
“One possible reason behind the larger drop in prime age workers is because businesses, schools and child care centers were closed longer, or had longer-term restrictions, here in New Jersey than anywhere else, ” said Considine.
Even with the declines, a greater percentage of people of prime working age were working in New Jersey than nationally. Overall, 75.6% of Americans aged 25-54 were working in 2020, down 4.4% from 80% in 2019.
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“New Jersey’s labor participation was historically higher than most states prior to the pandemic,” Considine said. “So a decline back to the pack, in a way of speaking, could have yielded a bigger percentage drop.”
The state’s percentages could reverse as the $300 extra federal unemployment payments end, schools reopen, child care is expanded and more New Jerseyans get the coronavirus vaccine according to N.J. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Bracken.
“Those things right there, should, probably with a capital ‘S.’, dictate that maybe more people will be seeking employment, and there are plenty of jobs open. They were all contributing factors for some of the people not going back to work. Now that they’re going to be added pretty vigorously, you’d think they would address the job situation,” Bracken stated.
However, the NJPP report shows that while there were more middle- and high-wage jobs than before the pandemic, employment in low-wage jobs continues to be well below pre-pandemic levels.
The hardest hit
Low-wage industries, such as restaurants, were the hardest hit by the economic slowdown. And among minority workers, African- Americans were 77% and Hispanics were 60% more likely than whites to be unemployed in 2020, according to NJPP.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez fought over the past year with little success to support state and local governments in the face of the recession. Menendez claimed that the Pew study demonstrated the need for such help.
“Early on, I demanded a robust economic recovery package that targeted federal resources to the areas of our country with the greatest need, including New Jersey, where the pain inflicted by COVID-19 is indisputable and disproportionately high, compared to other states.”