The change in the corporate tax subsidy law to help smaller firms has been a mainstay of Buono’s platform, as has her support for the constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 and provide for future increases pegged to the inflation rate.
Christie conditionally vetoed Democratic-sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage by $1, suggesting a three-year phase-in instead to cushion the impact on businesses.
Bracken and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce have made the defeat of the minimum wage constitutional amendment a top priority, while the New Jersey State AFL-CIO and its president, Charles Wowkanech, have worked hard to mobilize support for its passage, believing that a higher minimum wage would tend to push up wages throughout the workforce.
Buono has hammered away at Christie over New Jersey’s high unemployment rate, which stood at 8.5 percent for the month of August -- 1.2 percent higher than the 7.3 percent national average -- and the state’s failure to regain 110,000 of the 250,000 jobs lost between December 2007 and February 2010 as a result of the Great Recession, while New York State and Pennsylvania regained all of the private sector jobs they lost and added tens of thousands more.
New Jersey’s poor job performance is actually part of a national “jobless recovery” in which national employment remains more than 2 million jobs below 2007 levels and is part of what economists predict will be a “New Normal” where 7 percent to 8 percent unemployment is not uncommon. Furthermore, unlike most states, New Jersey’s employment problems predate the Great Recession.
“New Jersey was creating an average of 67,500 jobs each year during the 1990s when the economy was expanding,” noted Medina, who was serving as commerce commissioner during those dot.com boom years. “But we experienced very weak job growth through the first decade of the 21st Century, adding just 15,500 jobs a year even though the national economy was expanding.”
Medina noted that Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey not only imposed a corporate business tax surcharge to close a budget gap created after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center sent the region’s economy into a tailspin, “but when corporate leaders complained about the new tax burden, he called them out and demanded they release their tax returns so people could see how much money they were making. He really damaged the state’s credibility with the business community.”
Even during the Corzine years, while the stock market was surging, New Jersey’s job growth was tepid, peaking at 23.7 million a year in 2006, Corzine’s first full year in office and flattening in 2007 before losing more than 100 million jobs a year in 2008 and 2009.
Under Christie, New Jersey gained 28,400 jobs in 2011, a state-record 59,100 jobs in 2012, and regained 28,800 jobs in the first half of this year, a trend that portended a similar job gain this year. But Seneca warned that New Jersey’s employment gains may not be as robust in the second half of 2013 as they were in the first six months.
He noted that national job growth has slowed from 200,000 a month to 150,000 a month, and added that the partial federal government shutdown and threat of a federal debt default will undoubtedly have an effect on employment gains in New Jersey and other states.
“Within New Jersey, the echo effects of Sandy are still playing out,” Seneca noted. “There has been a time lapse on recovery expenditures, and anecdotal evidence suggests that the net stimulus from rebuilding has been delayed and will be less rapid than expected. The summer tourism season also took a hit, partly due to the weather, and that will have an impact on both the jobs report and the overall economic picture too.”