The good news: Cape May County had the largest year-over-year gain in employment in March among the metropolitan areas tracked by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jobs increased 9.2 percent in the county (which the BLS calls the Ocean City metro area). The next largest gain was 5.5 percent in Kokomo, Ind.

The bad news: That nation-leading gain in employment still left Cape May County with the worst jobless rate east of the Mississippi — its 15 percent unemployment ranking only five places from being the worst among all 372 U.S. metro areas in the BLS survey.

More bad news: Atlantic County’s loss of 2.7 percent of its jobs for the 12 months ending in March was the third-biggest percentage drop in the nation.

Even though the county (the Atlantic City-Hammonton metro area to the BLS) is only 168th in population among U.S. metro areas, its job loss of 3,600 was the third largest in the nation.

Cumberland County’s unemployment rate of 12.1 percent for March in the BLS metro data, released this week, put it just above Atlantic County’s 12.4 percent.

All three local counties (Ocean County isn’t included in the BLS survey) are in the bottom 4 percent of U.S. metro areas for employment. They are the only areas in the eastern U.S. in that bottom group.

This region suffered a decline, mainly through increased competition, of its large casino industry.

Hurricane Sandy dealt a blow to its large summer tourism industry, largely due to misperceptions of its effects on the southern Jersey shore, but damaging just the same.

And those things, unfortunately, came on top of the worst U.S. downturn most of us will ever experience, and the slowest, feeblest recovery since the Depression.

The best hope for our region continues to be that the broader U.S. economy will return to significant growth. That would put discretionary income back into the pockets of Americans and allow them to enjoy a family vacation at the shore.

That hope faced another setback this week when the Commerce Department announced the broadest measure of U.S. growth, the increase in gross domestic product, had essentially stopped in the first quarter.

Lots of commentators and economists strained to put the best face on it, blaming the economic stall on winter. This time was going to be different, after five straight years of upbeat forecasts that never panned out … if only the winter hadn’t been so cold.

The unemployment report Friday supported their view of the economy bouncing back after a winter slowdown. The U.S. added 288,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the recovery actually gains speed this time and gives us the strong summer we desperately need.

Choosing inequality

Income inequality has been a hot topic among economists and politicians for several years. A new research paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research documents one of the contributors to income differences: assortative mating.

That’s when, for example, rich people choose to marry other rich people, or more importantly, when highly educated people choose to partner with other highly educated people.

In “Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality,” authors Jeremy Greenwood, Nezih Guner, Georgi Kocharkov and Cezar Santos document the tendency and consider how it has affected income inequality among households.

Census data shows the income of a pair of high school graduates was 103 percent of the national average household income in 1960, but that fell to 83 percent by 2005.

For couples consisting of two college graduates, household income increased from 153 percent of average to 160 percent over the same period.

The authors suggest there are three main drivers of household income inequality:

  • The increasing earnings advantage of higher education;
  • The increasing tendency of higher educated people to choose mates like themselves;
  • The increased participation of married women in the labor force, which has “made women's earnings an increasingly important determinant of household income inequality.”

Contact Kevin Post:

609-272-7250

Five years as Ocean County bureau chief, 12 years as regional news editor (not continuous), 10 years as copy editor (also not continuous), all at The Press of Atlantic City.