N.J. unemployment rate rose sharply in October; Atlantic County weathered country’s worst COVID-19 job losses

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey’s unemployment rose to 8.2% in October from 6.7% in September according to the latest state jobs information.

“The extraordinary increase in unemployment occurred even though the number of New Jersey residents working rose by almost 16,000,” explained Charles Steindel, Ph.D. of Ramapo in a jobs report analysis for the Garden State Initiative. Much more than offsetting the increase in employment was a remarkable 89,000 boost to the state’s labor force. October’s sharp labor force gain, though, made up for little more than one-third of September’s plunge of more than 250,000, which drove the force participation rate to a 44-year low of 61.4%.”

One of New Jersey’s iconic counties remains the hardest hit in the entire nation by the COVID-19 economic tumult.

“Leisure and hospitality jobs grew by 5,700—a much smaller gain than in recent months. The resurgence of the pandemic, and recommendations that recreational travel be curtailed will likely hold down jobs in this sector in coming months,” added Steindel. “While leisure and hospitality is not that large a sector for New Jersey as a whole, compared to other states it is absolutely critical for some areas. This week the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released definitive data on employment and wages for the second quarter by county. Atlantic County had the largest drop in the nation in jobs from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020 of any “large” county: 34.2%. This was obviously the effect of the spring shutdown of the county’s gaming industry (Atlantic County also had the distinction of being the top county for average wage gains: 22.5%. The concentration of job losses among low-wage workers artificially boosted average wages).”

“The details muddle the full story: the rise in private sector jobs being offset by the government contraction; the unemployment rate increase resulting from the surge in the labor force (which could be a positive sign: people may be becoming more optimistic about finding jobs),” Steindel concluded. “However, the bottom line seems clear enough: the rather headlong recovery we had been seeing in our job market has been arrested (hopefully only briefly).”

With COVID-19 “cases” and hospitalizations rising once again, businesses leaders are warning that another Garden State lockdown would have devastating consequences for the state’s already weakened economy.