In February, Camden saw the highest year-over-year job gains of any metropolitan area in the country, according to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some 534,300 people had jobs in the metro area in February, a 3.5 percent jump from the same time last year. (BLS had estimated that the gains were higher before revising them downward.)
“I think there’s a rosy picture ahead for the Camden metropolitan area,” said Camden County freeholder director Louis Cappelli.
The metro area includes Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties.
Cappelli said the job gains were due in large part to the Economic Opportunity Act, a state law enacted in 2013 to give tax breaks to companies keeping or creating jobs in New Jersey.
Currently firms such as Holtec, Subaru, and the Philadelphia 76ers are building new facilities in Camden city, which has seen hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in just a few years.
Those job gains will remain long after the construction workers — who likely accounted for a part of the bump — have gone, Cappelli said. “Once the construction is complete, there’ll be thousands of new jobs in the buildings.”
But the employment numbers raise an ongoing question around the tax break law: is it worth it?
“Will it jumpstart the economy? Will there be a way to keep these [employment] gains? Or essentially have we traded a short-term construction boom for long-term tax revenue?” asked Stephen Danley, assistant professor of public policy at Rutgers University.
Danley called the job growth “excellent news” but cautioned that the recent spike may not last, since some companies simply relocated within the metro area.
While Camden is no doubt experiencing an investment boom, other cities in the metro area have also seen companies move there because of state tax breaks.
But since the BLS data does not break down the job growth data on a county or municipal level, it is unclear exactly where within the Camden metro area the job gains — and potential job losses — are occurring.
The Philadelphia metro area was the third highest job creator in the BLS survey, with a 3 percent year-over-year jump in its employment rate.