By Colleen O'Dea (Courtesy of NJ Spotlight)
New Jerseyans are continuing to struggle to recover from the recession, with household incomes barely rising while the number of families living in poverty increased significantly.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey paints a picture of a state not even close to regaining the wealth and high-paying jobs lost during the 2007-09 recession: Median household income was essentially stable at $69,667, but the proportion of families living in poverty rose to 8.3 percent and more than 1.1 million people were without health insurance.
“One thing is clear: the middle class and the poor are worse off than they were during the recession, and even than when the recovery had started,” said Ray Castro, senior policy analyst with the think-tank New Jersey Policy Perspective. “Banks are doing well, Wall Street is doing well, but it’s not trickling down the way it’s supposed to, to ordinary New Jerseyans.”
Castro said the state’s policies have had a negative impact on the way residents are recovering, or not, from the recession that economists say ended in June 2009. Cuts in the Earned Income Tax Credit program, New Jersey Family Care insurance program and public employee rolls have hurt those at lower- and middle-income levels, he said.
“And we’re still arguing over the minimum wage,” added Castro.
Gov. Chris Christie twice vetoed legislation to raise the minimum wage in New Jersey to $8.25 and require annual increases tied to the cost of living. In his conditional veto message last January, Christie called the bill “lopsided” and said it “will jeopardize the economic recovery we all seek.” The Legislature, with Democratic votes, placed the question on the November ballot.
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