New Jersey added another 21,500 jobs to its workforce in September, marking a total of 488,100 positions that have been recovered since the worst of the COVID-19 recession in March and April last year, according to data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The total represents 68% of the jobs lost due to the pandemic.
Last month, the state logged an unemployment rate of 7.1%, remaining above the 7% mark for much of the year. That rate is among the highest in the nation — in the top five as of August along with New York while nearby states such as Connecticut also come close.
James Hughes, an economist at Rutgers University, said New Jersey’s ranking is due to how badly the state was hit during the early days of the pandemic, prompting broad limits on business operations. “This is really the start of a very strong bounce-back,” Hughes told NJBIZ in April.
The biggest rebounds were in the professional and business services sectors, which saw 4,300 jobs added in September; leisure and hospitality which saw 2,500 jobs added; trade, transportation and utilities which saw 2,300 jobs added; and construction which gained back 2,200 jobs last month.
Business owners have endured months of hiring shortages, which have hampered the economic recovery after most restrictions were lifted earlier this year. Despite some expectations that the labor shortage would wane after the end of the $300 per week federal unemployment relief, hiring difficulties persist.
Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy introduced a $10 million pilot program to subsidize $500 hiring bonuses and $10,000 in training wages for workers switching into a new industry. While the bonuses have shown limited success, Murphy said he was confident that the addition of the training wages under the “Return and Earn” program would be enough to turn the tide of the labor shortage.