Experts are predicting the Department of Labor will announce U.S. employment has exceeded pre-recession levels Friday with the addition of 200,000 more jobs, but add the breakthrough should not be a reason to celebrate.
“It is a milestone without meaning essentially,” said Ryan Sweet, a director with West Chester, Pa.-based Moody’s Analytics, “because if the recession didn’t occur, employment would be substantially higher.”
And while the figure may indicate the country has returned to a pre-recession state, the current conditions don’t match the economic environment that existed prior to the crash, said Heidi Shierholz, a labor market economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
"If we kept going at 2007 labor market conditions, we would have about 7 million more jobs right now,” Shierholz said. “We are definitely in a recovery, but it is agonizingly slow.”
The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 5.7 percent, while Delaware sits at 5.8 percent and New Jersey has a rate of 6.9 percent – all below their recessional highs, according to the monthly job report released by the Department of Labor last month.
The positive trend is likely to continue in Pennsylvania and Delaware, but New Jersey might not be so lucky, Sweet said.
“An ongoing consolidation within pharmaceuticals is hurting parts of South Jersey,” he said. “When you lose pharmaceutical jobs, it has a spillover effect on the rest of the economy.”
The changes in the pharmaceutical industry are also hurting parts of Montgomery County, Pa., where the industry has a large hub, but other sectors are making up the difference, Sweet added.
“In Philadelphia, it has been tourism,” said Sweet, who attributes the industry’s growth partly to the casinos in the city and nearby suburbs. “But Philly’s gain has come at the expense of South Jersey as Philly specifically and Pennsylvania generally have been able to steal away some business from Atlantic City.”
Yet the area’s employment gains are made up mostly of low-wage jobs, another indication that the labor market has not fully recovered from the Great Recession.
“When the job market is strong, people don’t have to accept those jobs,” Shierholz said.
Sweet added, “It is still a long road ahead.”