We come bringing good news on a weekend where Easter, Passover and Ramadan are all being celebrated.
The first and foremost is that we seem to have a recipe for dealing with the coronavirus. We are able to freely live our lives even as COVID continues to spread. But because of the overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans who are vaccinated, those infected are not ending up in hospitals or dying at the numbers that we had seen before.
Our children no longer have to wear masks in school, we are able to frequent restaurants and bars to see friends and colleagues we have only seen through a screen for the last two years and offices are slowly filling up that incorporates a work-from-home option to allow for more family time.
There are signs the economy is back to pre-pandemic levels as well. Employers continue to add jobs, with the state’s unemployment rate down by 0.4 percentage points to 4.2% in March. New Jersey’s economy has now gained jobs in 16 straight months and added back 679,400 jobs in the last 23 months. That amounts to 92.7% of the 732,600 jobs lost in March and April of 2020, a rate nearly a percentage point ahead of the nationally average.
The recovery in jobs has coincided with a healthy increase in tax revenue for the state. New revenue figures from New Jersey’s Department of Treasury show state tax collections continuing to run strong, more than 16% year-over-year through the end of March. Two other major sources of state revenue, the sales and corporate-business taxes, are outpacing year-end growth targets that the Treasury just revised last month as well.
Adding to more money in New Jersey’s coffers will be the taxes derived from Garden State residents being able to purchase legalized weed this week. Maybe with all the extra revenues, a tax cut for those who need it the most could be part of the budget negotiations over the next two and a half months?
There are issues that we all wish common ground with less rhetoric could be found. There is a culture fight that never seems to end, especially on issues such as abortion, voting, and now the role that parents play in education. Add to that inflation driven by supply chain issues, compounded by a land war in Europe, that continues to be a major headwind that puts a pinch on all of our pocketbooks.
Despite all of that, there is reason to celebrate our nation heading in the right direction. The religions holidays all have the common thread of hope and celebration that come in the face of struggle. It’s a message that we all should strive to maintain going past this weekend.