A coalition of New Jersey corporate chief executives organized as part of New Jersey’s coronavirus recovery efforts pledged Thursday to hire or train more than 30,000 state residents by 2030 and spend an additional $250 million on contracts with Jersey-based businesses by 2025.

The efforts will focus particularly on minority populations hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The CEOs of the nine companies are also challenging their business peers to commit to create an additional 40,000 jobs and $250 million in local purchasing, on top of that.

“It is incumbent upon us to step up and help New Jersey not only emerge from the pandemic but to do as a more resilient and equitable state,” said Kenneth Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer of Merck and Co. and co-chair of the Restart and Recovery Commission and CEO Council.

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The announcement was timely, given a pair of state Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports released Thursday that offer details about a mixed but still-struggling economy.

The monthly jobs report shows 60,200 jobs were added in September in New Jersey but that 44% of jobs lost during the pandemic haven’t yet been regained. The unemployment rate fell to 6.7%, a huge drop from 11.1% in August – but that was largely because 229,000 people left the labor force, shrinking the supply of workers to the lowest level since 2004.

The weekly report on unemployment claims shows 29,029 new claims were submitted last week, the most in three months and 23% more than a week earlier.

Mark Clouse, president and chief executive officer of Campbell Soup Co., said the announcement is more than a grand gesture by companies that’s not followed through.

“No time more than right now has it been more important for us to come together and be focused and pick some tangible actions, and that is what I’m very excited about these initiatives,” Clouse said. “It’s two things, but it’s two things that can make a big difference.”

“These aren’t just words, these are real commitments,” said Kristin Peck, chief executive officer of Zoetis, an animal health company.

Ralph Izzo, who is chairman, president and chief executive officer of PSEG, said his company expects to hire 2,000 within the next six months. And he said companies have sophisticated computer systems that allow them to track purchases from businesses designated as minority- and women-owned.

Frazier cited research by the University of Washington Foster School of Business that says for every $1 million spent with a minority- or woman-owned business, more than $2 million is generated in economic impact; 13 jobs are created, more than half people of color; and the state’s GDP increases $1.1 million.

“To put that in context, the $250 million commitment announced today will have a $525 million impact in the state and create an additional 3,250 jobs, of which almost 1,900 will be people of color,” Frazier said.

Barry Ostrowsky, president and chief executive officer of RWJBarnabas Health, said his company has a supplier diversity program already in place.

“But frankly we have to do more. We have to not only buy from minority- and women-owned businesses, we have to invest in them,” he said. “We have to enable them to expand because … once you do that, you begin to have a multiplier effect that is truly incredible.”

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The announcement was welcomed by Jessica Gonzalez, founder and chief executive officer of InCharged, VendX and Lux-UVC and a member of the restart commission.

“This initiative is a tremendous step in helping businesses that have been destroyed by COVID,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a positive start to begin repairing and moving towards recovery.”

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