Rutgers researchers provide analysis on the pandemic’s impact on state’s economy through new Rutgers Regional Report published by a CAIT-affiliated researcher.

James Hughes

Dr. James W. Hughes is a university professor and dean emeritus of Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and a nationally known expert on demographics, housing and regional economics. Photo ©Rutgers University.

New Jersey lost more than twice the number of jobs it created over the past decade in just the first two months of the global coronavirus pandemic—bringing the state’s employment numbers down to where they were in 1985.

“The employment numbers of the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics for the nation and New Jersey tell the startling tale of economic free fall due to the pandemic,” said James Hughes, University Professor and dean emeritus of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, who coauthored a new Rutgers report.

According to the report, “Coronavirus Economic Shocks: NJ versus The Nation” New Jersey gained 406,000 jobs during the record-long 2010-2020 employment expansion but lost more than double that number–833,000 jobs–in March and April.

The study indicates that the brunt of the national and state employment collapse reached full force in April 2020. In that 30-day period, the nation shed 20.5 million total payroll jobs, a scale of decline that is without precedent.

New York and New Jersey, the two states hardest hit by the coronavirus, have lost one-fifth of their total employment in the last two months, according to the report.

These statistics and other economic shifts are outlined in the first report of a new monthly series called Fast Track Research Notes. The first issue focuses on employment base data that will be used to measure and evaluate the extent of future job losses and, when the turnaround occurs, job gains.

The report was authored by 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) and published by the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT).

Researchers say that the sheer scale of the loss of jobs due to this public health crisis reveals the need for continued major federal monetary, fiscal and other policy actions to restore public health and economic viability to the nation and to New Jersey.

“You can’t manage a problem unless you can measure it,” Hughes said. “Close, repetitive economic monitoring will be vital to crafting sustained recovery initiatives, which is the objective of Fast Track Research Notes. Economic recovery will be a multi-year process that must be guided by sustained statistical tracking.”

Future reports in the monthly Fast Track Research Notes series will document when an employment recovery may occur as well as its pace along with job gains by sector of the state’s economy. In addition to the authors’ analyses, the series will provide comprehensive statistical baselines to assess the status of the state’s economy.

CAIT-affiliated researcher Dr. Hughes is also helping New Jersey recover through his role on a newly established Economic Advisory Council created by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

The 34-member coronavirus-recovery Economic Advisory Council is designed to provide input and ideas to the Speaker and members of New Jersey’s State Legislature on how to move forward on recovery from COVID-19. Dr. Hughes sits on the council representing higher education, joining representatives from across the state’s various industries.

This story originally appeared in Rutgers Today.