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For the past few years in New Jersey we’ve had slow but steady economic growth. But suddenly there are new concerns about what happens next.

The state last year added 82,000 private sector jobs. So far this year, however, we've lost more than 10,000.

"It appeared the state economy was ready for liftoff, but for the first five months of this year, through the end of May, we went into reverse," said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

What’s really disturbing is no one seems to know exactly why this is happening.

“That’s turning out to be real head scratcher. We don’t have any real event that would suggest that we should be losing jobs,” said Hughes.

When we’ve had similar soft patches in 2013 and 2014, there were specific reasons why.

“One was due to the aftershocks of hurricane Sandy, and then the next year we had the resizing of Atlantic City’s casinos," Hughes said. "Both of those specific events had an impact on the job market, but this time around there is no unique event like that in New Jersey that would cause such a dramatic turnaround,” said Hughes

He noted one contributing factor is “the national economy has slowed down, and GDP came in relatively weak, so we do have some national headwinds facing us. It’s not the strong tailwind that it was. The U.S. economy has not been as strong of a supporter for Jersey as it had been in 2014 and 2015.”

And then adding more uncertainty to the mix is Brexit, the British referendum last month to leave the European Union.

“The financial markets have rebounded from that shock, but it does suggest there are international currents and events that could have negative influences on the U.S. economy. And if that happens New Jersey will certainly reflect that,” said Hughes.

“We’re heading into the second half of the year with a lot of uncertainty, not only with the New Jersey economy not creating any jobs, but also a slowing national economy. It’s really questionable how well the economy is going to perform for the balance of the year.”

Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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