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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-A newly released report from Rutgers University estimates that it will take seven years before the country matches its pre-recession employment numbers of 2007.

In the first issue of the “Advance & Rutgers Report: An Analysis of Economic, Business & Demographic Trends,” the researchers estimate that across the US, nearly 7.6 million private-sector jobs will have been lost between December 2007 and December of this year. Further compounding the situation is the fact that in the same period, the nation has added more than 1.8 million job seekers, resulting in a deficit of 9.4 million payroll slots. The US will need to create roughly 2.2 million jobs per year and cut its labor force by nearly one million annually before it can wipe out that shortfall. That means an equilibrium between employment openings and job hunters will not be reached for seven years, or until 2017.

Sponsored by Advance Realty, a real estate firm based in Bedminster, the report was authored by Dean James W. Hughes and Professor Joseph J. Seneca, both of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers.

During a conference call, Hughes termed the report’s projections “conservative.” Even if the economy turns positive in 2010, the nation is in for a tough time in the coming years due to the large number of job losses in the recession coupled with the expansion of the labor pool.

“The US needs to create about 1.2 million jobs per year to work off the deficit, assuming a 5% unemployment rate,” he stated. “It’s going to be a very long recovery period. It’s not going to be an easy slog going forward.”

The authors called the years between 2000 and 2009 “the lost employment decade.” During that period, private-sector job losses in the US soared to 1.7 million, putting the US on track to finish a decade with an absolute job loss for the first time since the Great Depression.

Hughes attributed that phenomenon to several factors, including a more disciplined approach to hiring by corporate America; productivity gains due to technology; and greater outsourcing of jobs overseas. The high cost of health insurance may also be inhibiting job growth. But overall, “intense global competition has stalled the American job engine,” Hughes said.

What has made the job losses different in this recession is that it hit the service sector so hard. In previous recessions, the construction and manufacturing segments took the brunt of the employment cuts. However, of the roughly seven million jobs lost between December 2007 and August 2009, 50% was in the private service-providing sectors. In previous recessions in the early ’80s and ’90s and 2001-03, that sector’s percentage of job losses grew, but never reached more than 17.8%.

That is bad news for Rutgers’ home state as well as the entire nation. Of the 200,000 jobs New Jersey stands to lose due to the recession, 80% are coming in the service sector, Seneca pointed out.

“The service sector in New Jersey and the nation has been an engine of growth for some time,” he said. “The scary part is that the service sector has become much more vulnerable to recession–that’s what’s new in this news.”

Consequently, vast portions of the American economy that were previously unscathed by economic downturns, such as commercial real estate, finance, retail, IT and professional business services, are now taking a hit.

“It has profound implications for real estate and the nature of the American economy going forward,” Seneca stressed. “Will those jobs come back and in what form? What are the policies the nation and the states need to pursue to address these type of job losses? What do we do in the service sector?”

New Jersey is not only impacted by what happens in the nation as a whole, but the financial sector in New York City. Job losses in Manhattan’s financial district have yet to be fully realized, Hughes stated, which means “2010 will be a difficult year for New Jersey and certainly for the broader New York region.”

On a broader scale, the staggering tally of employment losses could mean a “virtual war” among states for businesses and jobs, Hughes said. “Given the fact that the labor force is going to keep growing at 1.3 million persons per year, the US faces a daunting task to provide sufficient economic opportunity for all its citizens,” he said.

Seneca asserted that states that control costs and provide a hospitable business climate will win the battle for jobs, although competition will be intense. Previously high-flying states such as California and Arizona are now dealing with the after-effects of over-expansion, giving high-cost states in the Northeast like New Jersey a chance to win jobs. “But [the opportunity] has to be seized and acted upon,” Seneca said.

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