On Feb. 27, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order, creating a Jobs and Economic Opportunity Council tasked with providing recommendations for developing the state’s workforce. The Council will analyze economic data and identify funding, both federal and philanthropic, for infrastructure development and worker training programs.
“We must make sure that state residents have access to jobs and opportunities that will allow them to contribute to our economy,” said Murphy during a press conference. “In order to get the economy right, we need to make informed decisions about the path forward in New Jersey. I look forward to hearing the Council’s recommendations and beginning the process of building a stronger and fairer economy in our state.”
Over the past eight years, New Jersey’s economic performance has consistently lagged behind competitor states in median household income, job growth, and GDP growth, according to the executive order.
The order also mentions “STEM education, alternative pathways to success such as apprenticeship and vocational training, and job retraining efforts” as tools to develop the workforce.
For funding, the Council is tasked with identifying potential sources for infrastructure improvements, workforce development, and post-secondary educational initiatives.
“I know there are outside sources of funds for programs that we have left on the table for too long. One of the elements of getting us back into that fight is to have a strong muscular Washington presence, something we haven’t had in a while. We’re about to announce shortly a new head of that effort,” Murphy said.
New Jersey's economic growth has lagged behind the rest of the country since the Great Recession. Under former Governor Chris Christie, the state experienced increased growth in late 2015, but the improvement was short-lived. As of December, New Jersey’s unemployment rate is down to five percent, compared to the national rate of 4.1 percent.
“It’s time for New Jersey to get back to leading by doing,” said Murphy. “Turning New Jersey around must begin with fixing our economy, making us a place that creates jobs and new opportunities in innovation and infrastructure, that treats workers fairly and makes the strategic investments that underpin and foster long-term economic growth.”
Members of the Council will include Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver and members of the governor’s cabinet, such as the State Treasurer, the Commissioners of Education, Labor, Banking and Insurance, and the Secretary of Higher Education. The CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Tim Sullivan, and the Director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University will also serve, according to the order.