U.S. Companies Add 170,000 Workers in January

Companies added 170,000 workers in January, reflecting job gains in services and at small businesses, according to a private report based on payrolls.

The increase was less than forecast and followed a revised 292,000 rise the prior month that was smaller than previously reported, the report from the Roseland, New Jersey-based ADP Employer Services showed today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of economists called for an advance of 182,000.

“The job market continues to grow at a moderate pace,” Jonathan Basile, a senior economist at Credit Suisse in New York, said before the report. “We’re on a gradually improving path for the labor market.”

More hiring is needed to spur consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy. A Labor Department report in two days may show payrolls last month rose by 145,000 and the unemployment rate held at 8.5 percent, economists in a Bloomberg survey projected.

The projections for the change ADP employment ranged from 145,000 to 300,000, based on the estimates of 40 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

The slowdown in hiring from the prior month may be explained by the so-called purge effect. Workers, regardless of when they are dismissed or quit, sometimes remain on company records until December, when businesses update, or purge, their figures with ADP.

The paycheck processor estimates this change when adjusting its data for seasonal variations and, because there were fewer firings at the end of 2011 than in previous years, ADP may have found it more difficult to formulate a projection.

‘Some Firming’

“Employment grew in all the major sectors of the economy,” Joel Prakken, senior managing director at Macroeconomic Advisers LLC in St. Louis, which produces the data with ADP, said in a statement. “Other indicators suggest some firming of labor market conditions as well.”

ADP’s initial figures for December showed a 325,000 gain, while the Labor Department’s data a day later registered an increase of 212,000 in private payrolls for the month.

Goods-producing industries, which include manufacturers and construction companies, climbed by 18,000 workers, today’s ADP figures showed. Employment in factories added 10,000 jobs.

Service providers took on 152,000 workers.

Companies employing more than 499 workers added 3,000 jobs. Medium-sized businesses, with 50 to 499 employees, added 72,000 workers and small companies increased payrolls by 95,000, ADP said.

Federal Reserve

Concern about the high number of jobless Americans is one reason why the Federal Reserve last week said it would keep its benchmark lending rate near zero “at least” until late 2014 from a prior target of mid-2013.

“While indicators point to some further improvement in overall labor market conditions, the unemployment rate remains elevated,” Fed policy makers said after their meeting.

The Labor Department’s report in two days may show private payrolls rose by 165,000 in January, according to the Bloomberg survey median. Overall hiring, which includes government jobs, may have slowed to 145,000 after rising 200,000 in December.

The ADP report is based on data from about 344,000 businesses with more than 21 million workers on payrolls. Macroeconomic Advisers LLC in St. Louis produces the data with ADP.

More Corporate Subsidies, More Jobs?

Friday, January 13, 2012

STATE – Last week, Gov. Chris Christie signed the “Grow New Jersey” bill into law, touting it as a measure that would create and retain New Jersey jobs. The GrowNJ Assistance Program offers tax credits to businesses that make significant capital investments and create or retain at least 100 full-time jobs.

“Through the creation of GrowNJ, we are ensuring that critical economic development projects are moving forward and that businesses are staying, growing and creating jobs for New Jerseyans,” Christie said. “Expanding the reach of these job-creating incentives will put people to work now in construction jobs and create long-term, permanent jobs for our families.

“Incentive programs designed to grow New Jersey companies who retain and create new jobs is a smart approach,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden), a sponsor of the legislation. “Targeted incentives like this will strengthen New Jersey’s economy and build a stronger middle class.”

Deborah Howlett, the president of the non-profit, non-partisan New Jersey Policy Perspective group, cast doubt on the benefit of the “Grow New Jersey” bill for Garden State taxpayers.

“Few states in recent years have gone as far as New Jersey in offering tax subsidies to corporations in an attempt to spur job creation,” she writes. “The state has awarded more than $1.2 billion in tax subsidies through four major programs with the promise of tens of thousands of new jobs. That hasn’t happened.”

New Jersey’s unemployment rate remains at 9.1 percent according to the most recent figures, even as the national unemployment rate dipped to 8.5 percent in December, its lowest level in nearly three years.
More Corporate Subsidies, More Jobs?

Rural Areas Slower to Rebound

By ANTOINETTE MARTIN
Published: January 12, 2012

FOR whatever reason, homes sales picked up in New Jersey in the latter part of 2011. A new statewide market report shows contract signings increased in six of the seven months from May through November, compared with 2010.
Also, the inventory of homes for sale shrank every month since May, according to Jeffrey G. Otteau, an analyst, whose Otteau Valuation Group in East Brunswick does monthly reports for the real estate industry; he called the latest news a concrete sign that the market was “stabilizing.”

His December report was the first one in several years to sound a hopeful note. Until the state’s huge foreclosure backlog comes back on the market — and how fast that happens is important — the market may improve sometime this year to the point that prices stop declining and perhaps even modestly start to rise.

But that is the statewide picture. A great division in market fortunes between northern and southern Jersey — and urbanized areas close to Manhattan and more rural regions — became clear during the recent recession and remains stark in the fresh statistics. Mr. Otteau predicted that the gap would shape the timing and pattern of potential recovery, and several agents in the field agreed with him.

“Simply put,” said Dawn Rapa, a Coldwell Banker Elite agent working in rural Salem County, “the only people I’ve seen selling their houses recently are those who absolutely had to — because they were in financial disarray, a job change, divorce or death.”

Salem County, rich in historic houses and farmland but short on well-paying jobs or a quick commute to an urban center, has the largest inventory of all 21 counties surveyed: 44.5 months’ worth of houses, the preponderance of them priced under $400,000.

That compares with a statewide inventory of 13 months, both over all and in the under-$400,000 category.

Several other counties in southern New Jersey have inventories about twice the size of the state average — 29 months’ worth in Cumberland County, 26 in Cape May County, and 24 in Atlantic County.

In Cape May and Atlantic, the primary backlog is for more expensive homes, many of them built in the boom years to appeal to shoreline vacationers. Atlantic has just shy of six years’ worth of inventory in the $600,000-to-$1 million range.

For homes priced from $1 million to $2.5 million, the Otteau report predicted, it will take more than four years to sell the inventory in Atlantic County and close to seven years in Ocean County.

In Cumberland County, which like Salem is part of the Delaware Valley area that extends eastward from Pennsylvania, the homes are mostly priced under $400,000. There are not enough homes priced higher to be statistically significant, according to the report. Ms. Rapa said she sold 37 houses in Salem County last year, but prices were down “considerably.” And multiple listing numbers indicate that although inventory dipped 10 percent, there were 14 percent fewer sales over all compared with the year before.

Two of the Coldwell Banker agent’s listings that have sat on the market for many months despite price drops: a restored and modernized 1851 colonial in the historic hamlet of Alloway with three bedrooms and two baths, now offered at $186,000; and a four-bedroom two-bath house on a horse farm with a barn and 10 acres in Pilesgrove, now listed for $349,900.

“We just had an offer for $312,000 on the Pilesgrove house,” first listed in February 2011, said Ms. Rapa, “but the owners won’t go there.”

The market misery is not all concentrated in the south, however. In the northernmost county, Sussex, the inventory is 20 months. In the $400,000-to-$599,999 bracket, five and a half years’ supply is already on the market.

In the town of Vernon, which is home to several popular ski areas, and where construction was booming in the mid-2000s, the average sale price of a home was $250,000 in 2007, according to the real estate Web site Trulia. Now the site has it at $100,000.

A large house set on 1.3 acres there, with a view of ski slopes from the deck, was built and sold in 2004 for $392,000. The house, with three bedrooms and three and a half baths on Cherokee Trail, has been on the market since October, and the asking price is now $358,000.

Nearby in the somewhat more affluent town of Sparta, a number of large houses built about a decade ago on one-acre or larger lots are now being offered at reduced prices or as short sales.

“Houses are selling,” said Catherine Kut, an agent at Weichert Realtors in Sparta, “but they have to be in fabulous condition and still occupied, as a rule.

“I had a closing yesterday,” she said earlier this month. “The house was $438,000, and it sold in less than 90 days, but it was a cream puff. It had almost five acres of land, a finished walkout basement, brand-new granite counters — everything.”

Another of her listings was in great shape when it went on the market for $525,000 last February after the owner lost his job. A four-bedroom two-and-a-half-bath house, it is set on 1.3 acres and has a pool, and it was attractively decorated.

But the seller had to relocate for new employment. Now the vacant house is on the market as a short sale, in which a lender agrees to accept less than the amount owed on the mortgage, and listed at $445,000.

An ice dam formed on the roof earlier this winter and caused exterior damage, so a credit is being offered on the sale price to cover the cost of repairs.

NJ fares well in home safety report

By Asia J Martin / The Cranford Chronicle Cranford Chronicle

CRANFORD — Today the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety released their 2012 report on how states along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast rank in terms of life safety and property protection.

New Jersey is rated as one of the highest out of 18 states along the coasts. States could earn up to 100 points, and NJ received 93 points, two points behind Florida and Virginia who were first and second place with 95. The points were based on 47 questions under three main subjects; building code adoptions and enforcements (NJ scored 49 points), trainings and certifications for code officials (NJ scored 23), and the licensing requirements for construction trades (NJ scored 21).

The report praised NJ for adopting many codes and enforcing them, having a state program to become a certified code official, and having builders and contractors registered with the state. It also said that “state has a good system in place for licensing.” However, the report then criticized NJ for not requiring sprinklers in homes and townhomes. It also mentioned the state’s lack of hours towards continued code official training and that the state does not require some contractors and builders to take an exam or continue their education in order to obtain a license.

“The report goes beyond just evaluating each state’s code system,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “The report offers each state the detailed information and tools it needs to improve its building code process to better protect its citizens. It also gives interested citizens useful information so that they can understand the need for, and demand, better building codes.”

NJ makes it easier to build in sensitive areas

January 10, 2012 9:21 AM ET

By WAYNE PARRY

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey on Monday passed legislation that could make it easier for developers to build in environmentally sensitive areas.

Environmentalists had mounted a strong effort against the measure, saying it would drastically increase water pollution in spots such as the fragile Barnegat Bay and other waterways.

"This dirty deal at the State House will directly result in dirty water for New Jersey residents," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club environmental organization. "This bill takes the side of the builders and polluters over the people of New Jersey."

The bill puts home builders above the environment, said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a coastal advocacy group.

"Once again, special interests won out in Trenton," he said. "This bill is going to place hundreds of thousands of acres at risk of development in environmentally critical areas. It will increase the pollution of New Jersey's drinking water, its bays and rivers."

The bill still has to be signed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie before it takes effect. He has not publicly indicated whether he supports it.

At issue are sewer service designations, or areas of the state that are approved to someday have sewer service. Under current rules, county governments can protect land from most large-scale development by removing it from approved sewer service areas. Development of homes, stores and parking lots causes more dirty storm water and sewage overflows to run into waterways.

The bill keeps sewer service approvals in place for the next two years; sponsors of the bill had originally wanted them extended for three years. It also prohibits governments from protecting land already eligible for development by removing it from the areas approved for sewer service.

The sewer boundaries are important because they determine where large-scale development, such as for residential or commercial complexes, can take place.

Proponents wanted the bill to extend the time existing sewer boundaries can stay in effect to help the state come out of a sluggish economy by creating construction jobs.

The New Jersey Builders Association welcomed the bill, saying it provides certainty to builders that their plans can move forward in a difficult economy. Sen. Steven Oroho, a Sussex County Republican, said last month the bill is needed to help put skilled tradesmen back to work.

But environmentalists said it would undo decades of progress in improving water quality. Several mentioned the struggling Barnegat Bay as a particularly vulnerable waterway, but the bill applies to environmentally sensitive areas statewide.

The bill also allows builders to apply to the state Department of Environmental Protection for exemptions for their particular projects. An exemption doesn't have to be consistent with the environmental rules if it provides a net environmental benefit, meaning developers could do mitigation projects on other sites to receive approvals to develop in sensitive areas.

Developments also could be added to sewer service areas even if there isn't treatment capacity there.

A coalition of 13 state environmental groups released a report last week showing how water pollution could significantly increase under the bill. The report, prepared by a hydrogeology firm that specializes in ground water resource engineering, claimed the bill would burden the state's water customers with between $217 million and $435 million in additional water treatment costs a year. In addition, it said, by allowing development in lands that are ecologically critical to maintaining the water supply, up to $17 million of water resources would be lost each year.

Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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