Professors reflect on last month’s NJ job losses
In reaction to a recent New Jersey jobs report that revealed 11,600 private-sector jobs were lost in March, several professors at the University expressed a gloomy outlook on the state’s economic future.
The N.J. Department of Labor and Workforce Development released a monthly jobs report Thursday revealing a dip in the state’s economy that resulted in thousands of jobs lost. Private sector jobs made up the 11,600 of the total losses, while 3,000 were gained, ending a six-month growth trend, according to the report.
The job loss, which keeps New Jersey at a 9 percent unemployment rate, has alarmed experts like Joseph Seneca, economics professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.
Seneca said he is not optimistic about this year’s job market forecast.
“It’s a disappointing and ugly report for New Jersey, and it echoes what happened nationally,” Seneca said.
Although New Jersey had experienced growth in the private sector in the early months of 2012, Seneca said this month’s numbers could erase a lot of the progress that was made.
“What it does is it wipes out almost all private sector job growth from January and February,” Seneca said.
Seneca said March’s numbers would prove to be a big blow to many economists who had an optimistic feeling about the state’s future.
“What we thought was an accelerated economic expansion in the winter and the beginning of the year has stumbled, just as it has in the past two springs,” he said.
Yet Neil Sheflin, an associate professor in the Department of Economics, said it is important to note that the numbers reflect economic growth and not the overall economy itself, which he said is improving.
The negative trend in New Jersey is also reflected on the national scale, said Mark Killingsworth, an economics professor.
The United States gained more than 100,000 jobs last month, he said. The numbers fall far shorter than the 200,000 jobs gained both in January and February, Killingsworth said.
“As far as the U.S. economy goes, the signs are not terribly good,” Killingsworth said.
The job market problems are in need of new solutions, Sheflin said. The problem results from the political debates and bad policies that have obscured the search for resolutions, he said.
“Solutions are hard to come by because it’s an election year,” Sheflin said. “The economy is weaker than it should be at this stage nationally because of inadequate economic policy.”
Seneca said the election year has been detrimental to the economy because with all the focus on campaigns, the government has fallen into an unproductive “political paralysis.”
Killingsworth agreed that politicians are partly responsible for the current economic trend. He said the solution would have to come from government intervention.
“There’s not going to be a lot of job growth unless Congress passes a stimulus, and that’s not very likely at all,” he said.
Seneca said he is wary of making concrete predictions about the future of New Jersey’s economy, as there are many unknown factors that could contribute to new trends.
“Going forward we have to see what happens,” he said. “It’s a big question mark.”
Kirkland Hamilton, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said while unemployment is a problem for the country, students looking for jobs should continue to prepare to take any opportunity that comes their way.
“People have to stop being too proud to work at McDonald’s, for example, because a job is a job,” he said.