Back to work: N.J. records highest participation rate in nearly a decade

All that talk about people no longer wanting to work — or being part of the big tech-sector layoffs — apparently is just that: a lot of talk.

According to preliminary estimates produced Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s labor participation rate approached 65% in March, a rate not seen in nearly 10 years.

To be clear, data can be interpreted in a number of ways — and estimates of industry employment and unemployment levels are arrived at through the use of two different monthly surveys.

Industry employment data is derived through the Current Employment Statistics survey, a monthly survey of approximately 4,000 business establishments conducted by the BLS.

Resident employment and unemployment data are mainly derived from the New Jersey portion of the national Current Population Survey, a household survey conducted each month by the U.S. Census Bureau under contract with BLS, which provides input to the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program.

Both industry and household estimates are revised each month.

What does that mean? Nothing more than this: Using an apples-to-apples and month-to-month comparison, labor participation is way up.

This, at a time when labor force estimates for March show the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.5%, mirroring the national rate.

New Jersey’s labor force participation rate increased to 64.8%, its highest level since July 2013. It rose 0.3 of a percentage point from February, when it was 64.5%.

February employment estimates were revised down to show a loss of 3,100 jobs; preliminary estimates showed a gain of 4,600 jobs. The February unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.5%.

In March, four out of nine major private industry sectors experienced job growth. Sectors that recorded employment increases were leisure and hospitality (+2,100), trade, transportation and utilities (+400), information (+400) and education and health services (+100). Sectors that recorded an over-the-month loss were professional and business services (-3,500), other services (-1,200), manufacturing (-500), financial activities (-300) and construction (-100). Month-over-month, the state’s public sector was unchanged.

Preliminary year over year estimates (March 2022-March 2023) show growth in New Jersey was mostly broad based, with eight out of nine major private industry sectors recording job gains, including:

  • Education and health services (+45,600);
  • Leisure and hospitality (+23,200);
  • Trade, transportation and utilities (+6,500);
  • Manufacturing (+4,900);
  • Other services (+3,000);
  • Information (+2,600);
  • Construction (+2,300);
  • Financial activities (+900).

The only private sector industry to record a loss from March 2022 and March 2023 was professional and business services (-6,200). Year-over-year, the state’s public sector added 2,600 jobs.