Business Report: Reviving NJ economy, strong home sales, state pension investments, unemployment claims

CEO of New Jersey Chamber of Commerce proposes another $2 billion in funding for small businesses

While businesses are encouraged by the lifting of COVID-19-related restrictions, the state’s business leaders are now trying to come up with ways to really revive New Jersey’s economy. Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, says some big hurdles remain. Bracken is proposing that the state provide another $2 billion in funding for small businesses, using some of the new federal COVID-relief money that has been distributed to New Jersey. He also suggests providing a one-time return-to-work bonus payment to encourage unemployed workers who may be reluctant to return to the workforce. The New Jersey Business & Industry Association also supports incentives for unemployed workers as well as credits to small businesses.

New Jersey’s housing boom has yet to run out of steam. According to New Jersey Realtors, the number of closed sales surged more than 33% in April, compared to a year ago when the pandemic chilled the market. So far this year the median sales price for New Jersey homes has increased 20% to $375,000 as inventory remains low.

Investment returns on the state’s pension fund have bounced back this year after a sluggish 2020. Preliminary figures for the current fiscal year show returns were up more than 22% through April, well ahead of the assumed rate of return. That’s the best performance for the fund since 1998.

The weekly numbers on unemployment continue to show positive trends. The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims dropped in the latest week, falling to another pre-pandemic low; 406,000 new claims were filed. Fewer New Jersey residents also filed for unemployment in the most recent week, according to an advance report of initial claims.

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