You’d be amazed at what a ZIP code can tell you about a place.
The U.S. Census Bureau released its latest five-year estimates for the years 2007 to 2011 on Thursday, revealing detailed snapshots of economic data for areas as small as ZIP codes.
Some of what can be learned from looking at the data: The ZIP codes with the longest and shortest commutes in the state are both in the region, three of the five ZIPs with the highest percentage of unemployment in the state are in Cumberland County, and one of the top 10 median-income neighborhoods in the state is just down the shoreline from one of the lowest 10.
In terms of unemployment, four local ZIP codes — in parts of Maurice River and Commercial townships in Cumberland County and in Buena borough in Atlantic County — have some of the highest percentages of unemployment in the state. Neighborhoods such as Mauricetown, Port Elizabeth and Dorchester are small in size, with populations of 150 to 450 people, but their unemployment levels of 16.9 percent, 15 percent and 12.8 percent are ranked first, third and ninth in the state, respectively.
The Landisville section of Buena ranked fifth, with 15 percent of the work force unemployed.
In terms of sheer numbers, ZIP codes located within large urban cities such as Irvington, Jersey City and Union City had the largest numbers of unemployed residents within one ZIP code. Atlantic City, which is made up of one ZIP code, ranks eighth in the state with an estimated 3,217 residents unemployed.
Looking at poverty levels, sections of Newark and Camden rank highest in percentage of families and people whose incomes in the previous 12 months were below the poverty level, which in 2012 is an income of less than $11,170 for an individual or less than $23,050 for a family of four. Also in the top 10 was the Newtonville section of Buena Vista Township, where 34 percent were living below the poverty line.
“Western Atlantic County and Cumberland County in particular have always had lower income levels,” said Buena Vista Township Committeeman Chuck Chiarello. “At one point, before casinos, Buena borough had the highest rate of poverty in the state. It’s come a long way since then, but we’re faced with a crisis now that things have leveled off. Not much noncasino opportunities have sprung up since that (survey) was done. ... So it’s nothing new. These are poor areas, lower-income areas. They just could use an extra shot in the arm along the way.”
One of the biggest problems, Chiarello said, was the issue of transportation. He cited an initiative by the Rev. David Mallory of the township’s First Baptist Church to create a “feeder-type” program to shuttle people on minivans to connect with buses.
“He’s trying to find a solution to get people to jobs,” Chiarello said.
The numbers confirm that South Jersey is an area where few workers can take advantage of public transportation.
While areas such as Windsor in Mercer County and sections of Jersey City ranked highest in terms of workers who take public transportation, the highest-ranked city was Atlantic City, which placed 19th at just 28.5 percent.
The area also includes two towns at the absolute opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to commute length. Fortescue, in Downe Township, Cumberland County, has the highest average commute length in the state — at almost 80 minutes, a child in the backseat could watch a full-length animated film in the meantime. Towns in New York City bedroom communities in Warren County ranked second and third.
Meanwhile, Cape May Point had the shortest average commute time in the state, coming in at less than 11 minutes. The small community had an even shorter commute than workers who lived on military bases in Burlington and Monmouth counties.
Income is another measure that shows the vast differences between communities. The top four ZIP codes in terms of median household income include the Essex County suburb of Short Hills, the Morris County community of New Vernon, the redeveloped area of Jersey City along the Hudson River — and the Upper Township neighborhood of Strathmere, located at the tip of the island that also contains Sea Isle City, which ranks fourth with a median income of almost $183,000.
Year-round Strathmere resident Mike McNally called the town a strange mix of year-round and summer residents: Artists, fishermen, doctors and scientists.
“We know everybody,” he said. “We don’t care if one guy owns three houses. We don’t care if another guy owns two or three houses and a big boat. He takes us fishing, you know? We don’t care.”
McNally has been living on the island year-round since 1971.
“It was all bungalows,” he said. “My grandfather was here in 1944. I left here in the ’50s and then came back. Every time a little house gets torn down, one twice the size gets put up.”
Fifteen miles up the coastline is Atlantic City, which ranks 10th from the bottom in terms of median household income at $28,500, just $5,000 above the poverty level for a family of four. The ZIP codes with the lowest median incomes were located in Trenton, Paterson and Newark — but those ZIP codes include industrial or commercial sections of those larger cities, including the Statehouse area and Newark Liberty International Airport, while the number for Atlantic City includes the entire town.
Staff Writer David Simpson contributed to this report.
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