SOUTH BRUNSWICK — Gov. Phil Murphy turned his attention to the economy Tuesday, visiting a training center for operating engineers in this Middlesex County township to announce a new council that will study trends and promote jobs development.

Murphy said the new Jobs and Economic Opportunity Council is modeled after the National Economic Council used by the White House since 1993.

“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 which makes the strategic investments that underpin and foster long-term economic growth,” Murphy said.

The council includes 11 members from Murphy’s administration, including Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, five other Cabinet officials and the head of the state Economic Development Authority. It also includes the director of Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Carl Van Horn, who was a senior advisor to the governor’s transition team.

“This is not a purview of one particular piece of government. This is a whole of government approach,” Murphy said.

In addition to studying national and state trends, the council is tasked with finding ways to pay for priorities outside of the regular budget, including federal, state and bi-state authorities.

“Or potential foundational or other philanthropic grants for our infrastructure development, community and workforce development and post-secondary educational initiatives,” Murphy said.

As part of the effort to maximize federal funds, Murphy says he will soon announce a new head of the governor’s satellite office in D.C. – part of his goal of what he called a “strong, muscular Washington presence.”

“I know there are outside sources of funds for programs that we have left on the table for too long,” Murphy said.

The council is also being directed to develop and implement software technology “that can improve the delivery of government services for employers, residents, students and job seekers.”

The executive order Murphy signed Tuesday also eliminated a Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors that had been established eight years ago by Gov. Chris Christie on his first full day as governor.

A report out Tuesday from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows New Jersey’s unemployment rate in 2017 was 4.6 percent, compared with a national rate of 4.4 percent.

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