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Rutgers researcher says progress will be much slower as rapid recovery phase wanes

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New Jersey has regained 56.2 percent of the 831,300 jobs lost during the coronavirus-triggered downturn, a new report says.

New Jersey gained back half of the jobs lost due to the coronavirus pandemic but a wide disparity remains between higher-income professionals working at home and lower-wage support workers still bearing the brunt of the economic downturn that has gripped the nation, according to a new Rutgers report.

This “two-lane recovery described as the Zoom and gloom” effect has made the pre-existing have/have-not divide much greater, say the authors of Coronavirus Economic Advances Wane: Fast Lane to Slow Lane in New Jersey and the Nation.

“The progress we have made in recovering from the pandemic-driven recession is still incomplete, especially when it comes to the economic scars that continue to assert their long-term impact,” says report co-author James W. Hughes, University Professor and dean emeritus of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

According to the report, New Jersey has regained 56.2 percent of the 831,300 jobs lost during the coronavirus-triggered downturn, leaving a deficit of 363,700 jobs. The nation has recovered 51.5 percent of the 22.16 million jobs it lost, with more than 10 million workers still unemployed.

“To put these gains in perspective, it took the nation 29 months, and New Jersey 51 months, to reach the halfway employment recovery mark following the 2007-2009 recession,” says Hughes.

Hughes says the sectors that gained the most jobs were those that had been hardest hit during the stay-at-home economic lockdown. To achieve full job recovery a much broader swath of the economy will have to be included, he said. 

The report also analyzes the population outmigration endemic to New Jersey and New York City. Before the coronavirus hit, New Jersey was losing 145 people per day to the rest of the country; New York City was losing 266 people per day. While data are not yet available, the current exodus from New Jersey and New York City will have a demonstrable effect on the state's economy, city and overall metropolitan region, the report says.

Hughes noted more local urban-suburban household movements will modify the effects.

“As we plan for a post-pandemic future, officials must give attention to complex and changing population migration flows,” Hughes says.

Coronavirus Economic Advances Wane: Fast Lane to Slow Lane in New Jersey and the Nation is the sixth report in a series of Fast Track Research Notes, published by the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation on the pandemic’s economic fallout. The reports’ authors are Joseph J. Seneca, University Professor emeritus and Distinguished Professor of economics emeritus; Hughes; and Connie O. Hughes, former chief of management and policy in the New Jersey governor’s office.

The current report is available here