New Jersey saw personal income rise in 2020, but expert says numbers are ‘superficially good’

(The Center Square) – Personal income in New Jersey saw a higher increase than the national average, but one expert says the numbers are merely “superficially good.”

According to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), New Jerseyans saw their personal income increase by 6.8% in 2020. According to BEA numbers, Pennsylvania saw a 7% increase in 2020, while Delaware saw a 5.6% increase, and New York saw a 4.7% increase.

However, in the fourth quarter, the state saw a 13.7% decline. Delaware saw a 0.7% increase, while Pennsylvania saw a 16.1% decrease, and New York had a 13.7% decrease.

“New Jersey’s personal income for 2020 looked superficially good,” Charles Steindel, former state chief economist and resident scholar at the Anisfield School of Business at Ramapo College, said in an analysis for the Garden State Initiative.

“Our gain of 6.8% for the year as a whole was higher than the national increase of 6.1%, and ranked 17th in the nation,” Steindel added. “However, when we look at the portion of personal income earned from work – wages and self-employment income – a very different picture emerges, with New Jersey seeing an outright decline of more than 1% (1.2%), while the nation saw a small increase” of 0.3%.

According to Steindel’s analysis, increases in transfer payments, including unemployment insurance and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, supported New Jersey’s 2020 income numbers.

“When we look at income growth from the third to fourth quarters of 2020 – as opposed to the full year – New Jersey ranked a dismal 44th, as the fading out of the federal relief hit harder here than elsewhere,” Steindel said.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development said it has disbursed more than $25.6 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits to workers in the Garden State.

The department said it received 16,716 new unemployment claims for the week ending March 27, increasing more than 6,000 from a week earlier. Officials said the uptick included a rise in claims from self-employed workers.

For the week, the department distributed $431 million in benefits. The average claimant has received $17,122 in pandemic-related benefits.

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