N.J.’s unemployment rate increase ranks highest in nation

New Jersey’s unemployment rate has increased the most in the nation as of November compared to a year earlier and ranks among the highest rates overall, according to the latest federal data.

The state’s unemployment rate was 4.7% last month, an increase of 1.4% since November 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The next highest increases were California and the District of Columbia, both at 0.8%.

Yana Rodgers, an economics professor at Rutgers University, said New Jersey’s increase in unemployment could be tied the types of jobs affected by the efforts by the Federal Reserve to ease inflation with interest rate hikes.

“I’m hearing some buzz around that our labor market has become saturated, that we have more people looking for a job than we have jobs for, and there’s a bit of a mismatch,” Rodgers said.

The state Department of Labor said last week that the construction, information, manufacturing and other services reported job declines while other industries, including hospitality, education and health services gained workers.

New Jersey’s 4.7% unemployment rate in November was tied for third highest in the nation with Illinois. The District of Columbia had the highest unemployment rate at 5%, followed by California at 4.9%, according to the federal data.

The national unemployment rate was 3.7%.

Like neighboring states, New Jersey saw jobless claims spike to double-digit levels in 2020 during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state began 2022 with a 5.1% unemployment rate, which dropped to 3.5% in August of that year.

While unemployment claims have increased, New Jersey’s labor force participation rose to 65.1% from 64.1% in November 2022, said Oliver Cooke, a Stockton University economics professor.

“The Garden State’s overall unemployment and labor force picture remains solid, in my opinion,” Cooke said in an email response to questions about the Bureau’s report.

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Eric Conklin may be reached at econklin@njadvancemedia.com.

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