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For the past year, Gov. Chris Christie has been selling the "Jersey Comeback" in town hall meetings across the state, telling eager and skeptical residents the state is creating jobs and making other in-roads toward a return to economic good times.
With latest numbers showing New Jersey's unemployment rate among the highest in the nation and a loss of 12,000 jobs in July after months of increases, the governor's opponents were itching for a fight over Christie's record on the economy as he is set to deliver the keynote address to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday night.
But on Wednesday, Christie told reporters he will not utter the words "Jersey comeback" in his high-profile speech. Christie nonetheless will tout his record as governor, and a large part of that narrative has been his stewardship of the economy.
With many eyes on Christie as he gives the big convention speech, Politifact New Jersey is taking a look at some issues key to New Jersey’s growth and its quality of life.
Our scorecard works like this: we measured jobs, finances, real estate and transportation annually from January 2009 – the year before Christie became governor – to the most recent data available. To be clear, we are not holding Christie responsible for growth or lack of growth in each category. Instead, we present this data so New Jersey can decide for itself whether a Comeback has begun.
One of the key arguments behind Christie's "comeback" theme has been the job growth under his watch. Since the governor took office, there has been a decline in public-sector employment and an increase in private-sector employment. The state's unemployment rate originally fell during Christie's tenure, but has increased in recent months.
|Category||January 2009||January 2010||January 2011||January 2012||July 2012|
|Unemployment Rate||7.4%||9.7%||9.4%||9%||9.8% (P)|
|Total Jobs||3,958,400||3,852,200||3,837,500||3,883,400||3,899,600 (P)|
|Public Sector||651,200||649,000||620,300||621,000||623,000 (P)|
|Private Sector||3,307,200||3,203,200||3,217,200||3,262,400||3,276,600 (P)|
|Average annual pay*||$55,168||$56,382||$57,529 (P)||N/A|
*The Average Annual Pay is available annually. All other data categories are available monthly. (P) Preliminary figures
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, N.J. Department of Labor
Christie delivered his first budget for fiscal year 2011, proposing less spending than the budgets his predecessor passed in the two previous fiscal years. Average property taxes have continued to climb under Christie, despite a cap on property taxes and health and pension benefit reform he ushered into law.
|State Budget*||$32.9 billion||$28.99 billion||$28.4 billion||$29.7 billion||$31.7 billion|
|Growth in state GDP||-4.8%||1.5%||-0.5%||N/A|
|State Debt as of June 30||$35.51 billion||$36.91 billion||$38.06 billion||N/A|
|Avg. property taxes||$7,281||$7,576||$7,759||N/A|
|Avg. property taxes after rebate||$6,244||$7,576**||$7,519||N/A|
*Budget as signed at start of fiscal year **No rebate in 2010
Sources: N.J. Treasury Department, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, N.J. Department of Community Affairs
The recession officially ended in June 2009 but the trickle-down effects of a sagging economy continued to be felt in the years ahead. The Garden State saw significant declines in the number of homes sold as well as median home values.
|Category||2009||2010||2011||First quarter 2012|
|Real estate sales||115,300||84, 400||79,400||17,200 (P)|
|Median Home Values||$306,700||$304,000||$291,700||$265,000 (P)|
|Mortgage loans in foreclosure*||5.82%||7.28%||8.21%||8.37%|
*Data for 2009-2011 represents the fourth quarter of each year. (P) Preliminary figures
Sources: N.J. Association of Realtors, Mortgage Bankers Association
Getting from Point A to Point B became more expensive between 2010 and 2012 after Christie allowed the Port Authority to increase tolls and other toll hikes approved by Christie’s predecessor went into effect. Meanwhile, Christie, like other governors, has refused to increase the state’s gas tax, which supports transportation projects
|Category||January 2010||August 2012|
|New Jersey to New York crossings*||$8 during peak hours, w/ E-ZPass||$9.50 during peak hours, w/ E-ZPass|
*GWB, Holland & Lincoln tunnels, Bayonne &Goethals bridges, Outerbridge crossing
|Category||January 2010||August 2012|
|New Jersey Turnpike: Trenton to Newark||$3 one way, peak hours||$4.60 one way, peak hours|
|Garden State Parkway: Bloomfield to Belmar||$1.70||$2.50|
|Category||January 2009||January 2010||January 2011||January 2012||January 2013|
|Gas prices for NJ||$1.60||$2.60||$3.02||$3.30||$3.40|
|Gas prices for USA||$1.79||$2.71||$3.10||$3.37||$3.42|
Sources: AAA Mid-Atlantic, N.J. Turnpike Authority
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E-mail interview with Tracy E. Noble, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, Aug. 1, 2012