“Sometimes you hear about people who say they don’t have enough money to live. They say stuff like they have to choose between buying food or paying rent. You hear those stories, but if you’ve never experienced that yourself personally, you probably don’t believe it. You think they’re making it up. But I can tell you they’re not. That’s really true. That’s really happening out here. I know, ‘cause it’s happening to me right now.”
Charles Coleman, an unemployed construction worker who recently turned up at City Hall to lobby the City Council to approve a controversial development project on First Street, quietly recounted his unsuccessful attempts to find work, his days spent trying to get odd jobs that might pay him enough to get groceries, and his attempts to avoid eviction from his Greenville apartment.
Out of work for almost two years, Coleman spoke to the Reporter for several minutes before falling silent. Eventually he added, “I just don’t know what to do anymore.”
‘They say the economy is getting better. But I don’t see it.’ – Charles Coleman
According to the department, long-term employment trends in New Jersey remain on the upswing, with private sector companies adding 79,000 jobs since February 2010. In addition, from July 2011 to July 2012, 40,200 non-agriculture jobs were created in the Garden State.
However, the department also announced that unemployment has inched up to 9.8 percent, a figure that is above the national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent. Of 10 private sector industries tracked by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, five industries reported employment losses last month – including the construction sector – while only four industries reported employment gains. One private sector industry tracked by the department saw no statistical changes at all.
“The national economy has been sluggish and, realistically, we can’t be exempt,” Charles Steindel, chief economist with the New Jersey Department of Treasury, said last week in a statement. “Considering we have seen job growth in nine out of the past 11 months, we anticipate that job growth should resume and start to put some downward pressure on unemployment.”
For Coleman, the question is when this growth will be reflected in actual jobs he can see and apply for here in Hudson County.
“They say the economy is getting better. But I don’t see it,” Coleman said. “Someone please show me where all these jobs are supposed to be.”
Impact on Jersey City
Strategies for job growth are among the topics that will be discussed this week at a Jersey City roundtable hosted by the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce. The featured guest at the roundtable will be Tracye McDaniel, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey, a nonprofit group that tries to fuel economic development in the state. In addition to participating in the roundtable, McDaniel will also tour Jersey City Medical Center and St. Peter’s College, where the school is building a student union center.
Part of the chamber’s goal is to highlight the business potential in both Jersey City and Hudson County in an effort to work more closely with Choose New Jersey in the future.
The chamber hopes to “introduce [McDaniel] to some of the great assets within the county and to our members who are driving growth and development,” said Maria Nieves, president and CEO of the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce. According to the chamber, the roundtable and visit with McDaniel are part of the organization’s work to promote Hudson County as a strategic place to start or grow a business.
In recent months several businesses have either relocated to Jersey City or have announced plans to do so. Goya Foods Inc. is building a new 615,000-square-foot headquarters on County Road which will include 577,000 square feet of warehouse space and 38,000 square feet of office space. In June, Fidelity Investments opened a new 185,000 square foot regional office at Newport.
Several construction projects have recently been given the approval to move forward, including the construction of a residential development at 110 First St. and the controversial Spectra Energy Natural gas pipeline. Combined, these two projects alone are expected to generate nearly 3,000 jobs for Jersey City construction workers.
And some of New Jersey’s fastest growing companies – including Atlantic Coast Media Group Inc., SANPulse Technologies, and Datapipe Inc. – are also based in Jersey City.
Since many of the jobs these companies have brought to the city are jobs that are already held by workers who have simply transferred to new offices, there has been some question as to whether these relocations have had an impact on local employment for Jersey City residents.
“The latest jobs report is very bad news for New Jersey,” said Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a statewide economic think tank. “With unemployment the highest it’s been since April 1977, this report confirms the fragility of the state’s crawl out of the recession. Instead of assuring New Jerseyans that we are over the hump and concentrating on barely noticeable tax cuts, it’s time to focus on investing in job creation strategies that work.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.