New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie holds his 118th Town Hall meeting with the citizens of the state of New Jersey, April 9, 2014.
Mark Peterson/Redux

New Jersey’s ‘sideways crawl out of the recession’

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) multiple and ongoing scandals continue to percolate in ways that are taking a toll on the governor’s standing. Under the circumstances, it seems like a safe bet that Christie would prefer to move away from the subpoenas, resignations, and grand juries, and instead focus on how the Garden State is doing on his watch.
 
The trouble is, the governor doesn’t have a whole lot to brag about on this front, either.
Unemployment rose slightly in New Jersey last month as the state lost about 1,300 jobs, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 
The private sector shed 700 jobs, according to the report, and the public sector lost 600, bringing the state unemployment to 7.2 percent, up from 7.1 percent a month earlier.
The jobless rate in New Jersey is above the national average and the state is losing jobs while the national employment picture improves more quickly.
 
Indeed, the New Jersey Policy Perspective told the Star-Ledger that on the national level, the country has recovered about 95 of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, while in New Jersey, it’s 37 percent.
 
NJPP deputy director Jon Witten said, “It’s clear New Jersey continues to be stuck in a slow, sideways crawl out of the recession.”
 
I still think speculation about Christie’s national ambitions is premature, but if we indulge the scuttlebutt, how exactly does the governor intend to overcome his scandals and his poor record on job creation? Isn’t that a rather brutal combination for a would-be presidential candidate?
 
Matt Yglesias had an item a few months ago on New Jersey’s “curiously weak” economy.
It’s difficult to know exactly what the best comparison is, but New Jersey unemployment is higher than the national average. It’s also higher than the average for the Northeast. It’s higher than the average unemployment for the Philadelphia metropolitan area (much of which is in New Jersey) and it’s higher than the average unemployment for the New York City metropolitan area (which, again, is partially in New Jersey). Either the Jersey-side suburbs of New York and Philadelphia are lagging behind the non-Jersey suburbs, or else the labor market in the non-metro parts of New Jersey is so horrendous that it’s dragging the whole state down.
 
This is not a trend that was evident before the recession began, when New Jersey had a slightly stronger than average economy. But during 2009 (when Christie was first running for office), New Jersey unemployment soared above its local comps while still remaining slightly below the national average. Then since Christie’s inauguration, Jersey unemployment has fallen steadily but not closed the gap with metro NYC or metro Philly unemployment rates, and the national rate has fallen much faster than the New Jersey rate.
To be sure, it’s generally a mistake to assign all the credit or all the blame to a governor when looking at a state’s unemployment rate. For that matter, this Yglesias piece was in January and some of the economic metrics have changed since.
 
But Christie’s in a uniquely awkward situation in light of the many investigations surrounding his administration – he needs to be able to reassure supporters that he remains politically strong thanks to an impressive governing record.
 
Unfortunately for the governor, that’s a tough sell given the state’s troubled job market.
 

Chris Christie and New Jersey

New Jersey's 'sideways crawl out of the recession'