The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development released its February jobs report March 23, showing another month with jobs gains, mixed with a downward revision to January’s numbers and a lackluster showing in certain sectors.
Last month, payrolls grew by 4,600 jobs while January’s blockbuster figures were revised downward a tad, by 4,800, for a total gain of 19,400 jobs.
“Normally, that would be regarded as a modest increase,” said Charles Steindel, former chief economist for the State of New Jersey, who analyzed the new report for the Garden State Initiative. “Still, there were 105,400 more jobs in the state this February than in February 2022.”
Four of the nine major private sectors industries sectors showed growth, led by:
“There was a 1,600 drop in leisure and hospitality, which leaves that sector about 10,000 jobs shy (roughly 2.5%) of its February 2020 peak – in line with the national gap,” Steindel noted.
The state’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.5%, marking the second straight month that the figure ticked up 0.1 percentage point. New Jersey’s unemployment rate remains just below the national unemployment rate of 3.6%.
“As was the case in January, the increase in New Jersey’s unemployment rate was the result of an increase in the labor force outstripping the increase in employment of New Jersey residents,” said Steindel. “The labor force gain was 17,400, which is the largest since last April. The labor force participation rate was 64.5%, matching its recent August 2020 high. Resident employment rose 12,500 in February, for its largest gain since August.”
Steindel said that while the February numbers were less sparkling than recent months, he believes the overall picture shows New Jersey’s labor situation remains strong. But, he did caution about headwinds and obstacles occurring more broadly in the economy that are playing out in real-time.
“The banking turmoil has come upon us so recently that it could only possible evident starting with the April data, and it also quite unclear as to whether these developments will have meaningful effects,” said Steindel.d