The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia highlighted what he felt was the “pretty good shape” of New Jersey’s economy overall as the country enters more than a decade of intense economic growth following the Great Recession.
“I actually think our state’s in pretty good shape,” Philadelphia Fed President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Harker – who sits on the Fed’s Open Market Committee which sets interest rates – said at a forum hosted by the NJBankers in Somerset on Friday morning. “I’m not worried that much about New Jersey’s economic future.”
The state’s economy has been slow to rebound from the Great Recession, and only this month did its amount of tax revenue surpass pre-recession levels, according to a Jan. 9 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Federal data this month showed that the state’s gross domestic product in the northeastern United States beat the national average for the third quarter of 2019, which runs July 30 to Sept. 30. During that time, the state’s GDP grew 2.3 percent, according to the Federal Bureau of Economic Analyses released Jan. 10, compared to the nationwide GDP average of 2.1 percent.
But business advocates and conservative-leaning think tanks have shown anxiety that the growth can last, and doubt that it reflects a stronger economy in the state.
“One good quarter certainly does not mean the long-term trend has been reversed,” Charles Steindel, a former New Jersey state economist, said in a Jan. 10 analysis from the conservative think tank Garden State Initiative.
“In other sectors which are more likely keys to the state’s ongoing growth, such as professional services management, information, and finance, at best the state kept pace with the nation, rather than leading,” Steindel added.
The New Jersey Business & Industry Association meanwhile, has argued that business owners – wary of a potential recession in the next two years – may become more cautious with how they invest and spend money.
Harker on Friday also gave a nod to a growing trend of pushing students onto alternative paths to college, and toward industries that require training and credentials in technical skills.
“We need to bring dignity and respect to those trades,” Harker said. “Encourage people who may not be ready to go to college yet, or may never go to college, that there are alternative paths to contributing to this economy.”
The Murphy administration has adopted a similar approach during its first two years in office.
This Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled the full details of a new program called Jobs NJ, whose mission according to the governor is to ensure that the state’s workforce is prepared, and employable, in the event of another economic recession down the road. Jobs NJ will focus on boosting the number of industry-credentials, training programs and graduates by the hundreds of thousands by 2025.