By David Cruz
While you couldn’t describe New Jersey’s economy as booming — it lags behind the region and much of the nation in growth — the Garden State is, still, like much of the rest of the country, seeing a consistent uptick in job creation.
New figures out this week from the Department of Labor show job gains in trade, transportation and utilities, leisure and hospitality, as well as construction. The financial sector lost jobs, though, as did the professional and business services sector.
“Normally, in a post-recession period, financial jobs soar in New York,” noted James Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “This time it hasn’t, so the financial industry itself is restructuring, and there’s very little job growth nationally, and that’s what is reflected in New Jersey.”
If you want to see a real-world interpretation of those numbers, you can look at Jersey City, where the economy is expanding like no place else in the state. The city says its residential building boom is creating jobs — over 9,000 in two years — and economic activity that hasn’t been seen in decades.
“It’s just because people are looking at Jersey City in a different way,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. “Once you start looking at Jersey City in a different way, it’s easier to attract dollars, which is ultimately where we’re going with it.”
You might assume that all these corporate office towers are driving the jobs figures. And overall they have accounted for tens of thousands of new jobs over the past decade, but what’s really making the local economic engine purr is the little guy.
Together, Talde and Carrino’s Provisions employ over 130 people. Owner/Operator David Massoni says about 90 percent of them live in Jersey City.
“We kind of wanted to see if the same thing would happen here as what happened with our restaurants in Brooklyn, which were waiters, bartenders and cooks that would much rather not commute into Manhattan to have a good job,” he said. “By creating a really fantastic place where they knew they could make good money, they’re very happy not to have to get on the PATH.”
Entrepreneurs and tech start-ups are also a part of the economic fuel here, too. Zahra Amanpour owns IndyGrove, a co-working space just across the street from the PATH station. With 150 members, representing almost 70 individual enterprises, the community of entrepreneurs at IndyGrove is still growing.
“I have two full-time employees that work in the space. I have several freelancers that do work for me; I have a bookkeeper, a search engine optimization team. I have a web designer, I have a tech guy,” Amanpour said. “All of these people are getting income off of my business and then within my business each one of my members does something similar to that.”
So, it really does take a village. And while New Jersey may be lagging the rest of the region and the country in job creation, Jersey City is showing that — although it can’t hurt — you don’t really need to build office towers to create and attract jobs.