BUSINESS & ECONOMY

NJ Unemployment Rate Dips, Job Losses Felt in July

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development released preliminary jobs numbers for July today. The organization found that the unemployment rate dipped, but there were also job losses in both the private and public sectors. Commissioner Harold Wirths told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the month to month numbers are usually revised and pointed out that this July looks similar to past Julys.

“Last month we were revised upwards 20 percent and May’s numbers we were revised up 3,000 — 18,000 job creations. So in the last five months alone we’ve created 40,000 jobs. From July to July, we’ve created 75,000 jobs. So this one month preliminary numbers I’m not gonna get too excited until I see the revised numbers next month,” Wirths said.

He also pointed out that six of the last seven Julys have had similar drops. “Last July we were within 400 job losses of this July. So it’s something going on in the month of July. We’re having substantial job losses and then usually strong rebounds,” he said.

Wirths said he believes school and college closings could have something to do with the skewed July numbers. But he also pointed out that the overall trend in New Jersey has been very positive, with nine out of 12 months of job growth and five consecutive months of job growth.

“This was our first down month. But again, they’re preliminary numbers and we’ll see what happens,” Wirths said. “The unemployment rate did tick down. We’re down over a full point in the unemployment rate, which is a very major shift down from a year ago today. So the unemployment rate’s going correctly.”

The data also shows that average hourly and weekly earnings dipped, but Wirths said the decrease was very minor — a few cents per hour — and he doesn’t believe it’s significant.

Wirths said he’s a bit suspicious of the preliminary numbers because they show big losses in leisure and hospitality and construction. “I find it hard to believe that the construction jobs are down 2,000 with the rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy,” he said.

Even though Sandy hit more than nine months ago, Wirths said much of the money is just becoming available now for construction projects. “I was at a function last night where one gentleman was telling me that the most difficult thing is finding a construction worker to do repairs on his house,” he said.

According to Wirths, the trend for New Jersey’s economy is heading in the right direction. “We’ve created 143,000 private sector jobs since February 2010, which I always say is a low point where we lost over a quarter of a million jobs. So five months in a row, nine out of 12, I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction and I think hopefully when I’m back here next month it’ll show that this was just a temporary blip as it has been in the past Julys,” he said.

Wirths said he has been part of projects getting 800 people to work on Sandy recovery efforts from the $15.6 million grant the Christie administration received from the federal government. He cited one in Bergen County where workers are repairing eight miles worth of trail damage.

“Eight hundred people that didn’t have jobs before are working. And the pride that these 11 fellows that I spent a lot of the morning with them showed. Not only are you putting a paycheck in their pocket, but they’re also doing great work and how proud they’re going to be to say they restored the great park after Superstorm Sandy. That’s great,” Wirths said. “We’re working in 13 counties with 800 workers still cleaning up after the storm. That’s the great part about doing this job — putting people back to work.”