New Jersey, the Sorry State

William McGurn wrote an article entitled “New Jersey Is the Perfect Bad Example” in the December 30 2008 edition of the Wall Street Journal. (http://tinyurl.com/94y8ll) It’s all good, but the really arresting part was this:

From 2000 to 2007, says the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, the government added 54,800 jobs. To put that in proper perspective, that works out to 93% of all jobs created in New Jersey over those seven years.

This statistic was picked up and widely discussed by radio and TV talkers, but the problems of one small and increasingly insignificant northeastern state are of little enough interest even to its residents, never mind the rest of America. Since then it has been swept away by the stimulus package, the budget, the stockmarket fall and rise, the G20, Susan Boyle, torture memos, Carrie Prejean, Somali pirates and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. But as one of the people who hasn’t left yet, and who paid his real estate taxes today, I want to linger over New Jersey, the sorry state.

I’m never satisfied by what I read, but have to check myself. The info is there for the taking at one of my favorite websites, from the BLS, at http://www.bls.gov/data/#employment.

What I found, using different beginning and ending points, is more or less the same, with some other disconcerting data as well.

In the ten years to February 2009, non-farm employment in New Jersey rose by ninety-six thousand. Population rose around 320 thousand. Labor force participation rose in the middle of the ten years but fell later to end the period where it began at 47%.

State and municipal employment increased by 87,200 over the period which is 91% of the total increase. The federal government, the US Postal Service, and the Department of Defense all shed jobs in the garden state.

The goods producing sector of the state economy is in a total free-fall, losing 138,600 jobs in the decade, or 25% of all jobs in the goods producing sector at the beginning of the period.

One-third of manufacturing jobs were lost, and now government workers outnumber manufacturing workers five-to-two, making a mockery of the old motto “Trenton Makes, The World Takes.”

One-third of NJ workers now work for the government, or in health care which increasingly is much the same thing.

Does anybody imagine this state of affairs is satisfactory, or sustainable?

New Jersey’s population growth in the decade, at 3.8%, was barely one-third of national population growth. The state has the nation’s highest population density, so we can afford to let other places catch up on this measure. But to the extent that we are growing less because we offer an unattractive place to live, work, and do business, it is a problem.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker was quoted today by Bloomberg saying “New Jersey will go bankrupt in 10 to 20 years because we cannot afford our employees as a state. I’m talking about every worker from the cities and counties to the state government. Eventually, we’re going to price ourselves out as a government or tax ourselves to death.” Although he’s a Democrat, Booker talks like a pro-growth Republican. He gives the appearance of understanding that a diminishing private sector cannot indefinitely support a boundlessly growing public sector and hundreds of thousands reposing in the soft feather-bed of our ludicrously generous welfare state.

I wish him well. I like Newark, have done business in every neighborhood there, and know them so well at ground level that it horrifies my suburban Bergen County mother, who did her level best to prevent me ever knowing such places existed. The city of Newark is the biggest urban center of the state, but probably not the one that places the largest strain on the state’s finances on a per capita basis. Cory Booker deserves our support.

As for this state, it is Booker’s to run as governor in a future that is not too remote. No doubt he wants his prize to be worth something when he takes it in his hands. If he can get the ear of his party’s apparatchiks, maybe it can be. The trends, however, are not encouraging.

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