Business Report: Unemployment rate, shortage of health care workers, more COVID-19 relief grants

NJ’s unemployment rate edged lower in April but is still well above the national rate

New Jersey’s economy continues to recover from the pandemic, but it’s still a slow go. The state’s unemployment rate edged lower in April and now stands at 7.5%; the national rate is 6.1%. Preliminary federal estimates released by the state show that New Jersey added fewer than 4,000 new jobs last month. New jobs have been added to New Jersey’s economy for the last four months, but the state has still only recovered little more than half of all the jobs lost since last March and April.

While we’ve reported on New Jersey companies’ struggles to find waitstaff and other workers, another group of employees is in short supply across the country — that’s health care workers, including doctors. The issue was the focus of a hearing Thursday on Capitol Hill. One doctor who testified called the workforce shortage a crisis.

Business groups are backing the latest COVID-19 relief bills moving through the state Legislature. The bills would provide another $235 million in grants to help small businesses recoup some of their financial losses. Restaurants, small businesses, child care centers and nonprofits would all be eligible to apply for the additional funds. This bucket of money is on top of the $85 million allocated just last month. The New Jersey Business & Industry Association says the grants would allow more businesses to stay open.

The grocery chain Whole Foods is expanding, adding 40 new supermarkets nationwide. Four will be in New Jersey, in Jersey City, Skillman, Wayne and Woodcliff Lake. The opening dates haven’t been announced yet.

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