For a state that represents less than 1% of the America’s total landmass, New Jersey is big when it comes to business. The Garden State’s strength comes from industries ranging from pharmaceuticals and biotech to tourism and agriculture. In 2013, the state recorded a gross domestic product of $509 billion— which is roughly equal to Norway’s economy.
Even with a strong economy, New Jersey lags behind its potential. The state has struggled to recover from the recession as it battles a 6.6% unemployment rate that is above the national average. New Jersey also has weathered successive credit downgrades that could slow future investment in the state’s infrastructure.
In a state where economic revitalization hasn’t been consistent, it pays to know where to find the best opportunities. NerdWallet crunched the data to help you discover the cities and communities that are growing the fastest. Our series has analyzed states across America to determine which cities are “on the rise” based on growth of the working-age population, employment and income from 2009 to 2012.
When we analyzed the numbers for New Jersey, certain trends became apparent. Here’s what our top places had in common:
- Employment growth is lagging. While many states have been recovering jobs since 2010, New Jersey lags in new employment. On our list, only Hammonton showed employment growth over 5%.
- Working residents are getting richer. Even though job growth has remained relatively flat, residents’ income increased considerably in places — as high as 25.9% in our top spot.
- Industry is diverse. New Jersey’s economic landscape was one of the most varied yet in NerdWallet’s analysis of economic growth across the nation.
New Jersey’s economic woes, according to researchers, are partially linked to its taxes. When compared to other states, New Jersey ranks near the bottom on a competitive index produced by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University. And the nonpartisan Tax Foundation says it is the 49th worst place to do business in the U.S. because of high taxes on property, income, sales and corporations.
The state has seen employment increase just 4.6% since 2010, compared with growth in neighboring states — 5.7% in Pennsylvania and 8.9% in New York. In our top 20, only Hammonton showed strong employment growth, with an increase of 7.2% from 2009 to 2012.
But even as job growth lags, New Jersey residents have maintained a high level of wealth. With a per capita income of $53,628, the state ranks third in the nation, just behind Connecticut and Massachusetts. In some cases, residents’ high income is likely linked to job opportunities in New York and Philadelphia.
New Jersey’s strength comes from the diversity of its industries and businesses. The state that has a growing biotechnology and telecommunications sector is still home to traditional industries such as glass manufacturing in Bridgeton and agriculture in Atlantic County — did you know New Jersey is the fifth-largest producer of blueberries in the country? Camden County provides broad employment from Lockheed Martin to Express Scripts, a company that manages pharmacy benefits.
A workforce that is sixth in the nation in economic output per job and eighth in per capita GDP boosts the state’s industries. NerdWallet’s analysis found income growth statewide — and sometimes over 20% as in the case of Edgewater, Somerset and Tenafly.
Above all, New Jersey’s most notable growth is in its working-age population. All but one of our top 10 places saw positive growth in its population of younger workers, and some communities, such as Lakewood at 27.09% and Williamstown with 22.27%, saw explosive increases. The working-age growth in the state is impressive when compared to the national rate of 3.3%.
Ultimately, it appears New Jersey is a state waiting to achieve its full potential. Here’s our list of the top 20 cities and places on the rise in New Jersey. Take a look at our methodology below to see how we calculated U.S. Census Bureau data to find our top cities.
Share your thoughts in the comments section, and tell us why you think your city deserved (or didn’t deserve) a spot on our list.
|City||Working-age population in 2012||Working-age population growth 2009-2012||Employment in 2012||Employment growth 2009-2012||Median income in 2012||Median income growth 2009-2012||Overall growth score|
|14||West New York||40,214||9.44%||62.40||-0.48%||35,528||8.65%||42.26|
We analyzed 131 communities in New Jersey with populations of 10,000 or more. Certain places were omitted due to inconsistent data for 2009 to 2012.
The overall score for each city or place was derived from these measures:
1. Population growth from 2009 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. Data for the working-age population (16+) comes from the 2012 U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year estimate for all places in the state, Table DP03.
2. Employment growth from 2009 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. Data for the percent of employed residents comes from the 2012 U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year estimate for all places in the state, Table DP03.
3. Income growth from 2009 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. Data for the median earnings for workers comes from the 2012 U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year estimate for all places in the state, Table DP03.
Jersey City, New Jersey, skyline image via Shutterstock.