Economic news in South Jersey has been depressing at best since the national recession that began more than a decade ago.
Unemployment and home foreclosure rates have been among the highest in the country.
But things are looking up, evidenced by a run of job fairs recently around the region. Filling positions for two planned casinos opening this summer in Atlantic City has attracted a lot of attention. More than 4,800 people lined up in February for Stockton University’s Atlantic City Gateway Career Fair.
A little less prominent but also an indication of the region’s apparently reawakening economy was a first-ever job fair put together by the city of Cape May and the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May.
Organizers said they hoped for 25 or 30 businesses to participate, but ended up with 42 looking for workers to fill both seasonal and year-round positions.
In a tourist economy, it is important the local business community looks for ways to make sure it has the workers needed to deliver the services visitors expect. The cooperation shown to make the job fair succeed is encouraging.
Cape May was recently listed by a website called The Daily Meal as among the Most Beautiful Towns in America. It takes plenty of staff to make sure tourists seeking that beauty want to keep coming back to experience the lo-cal Victorian architecture, iconic lighthouse, beaches and other natural assets.
A welcome problem an improving economy poses is the increased challenge of filling positions. In Cape May County, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has dropped from 21.7 percent five years ago to 14.3 percent this February, according to U.S. Labor Department.
That means efforts such as the job fair will be all the more important.
Another good sign is the federal J-1 Summer Work Travel program is apparently not being hurt by the political fighting over immigration. Visas issued under the program supply eager foreign students to fill a significant portion of the lower-paying summer jobs in Cape May and other shore towns. Last year, New Jersey hired about 5,000 students working on J-1 visas, down only slightly from the year before. Morey’s Piers in Wildwood alone has a goal of hiring 550 such workers this summer.
Those students from other countries and the teenagers from Wildwood to Pennsylvania who came looking for work at the Greater Cape May Job Fair will prove vital to keeping the region’s economic momentum moving in the right direction.