NEW YORK — Stephen Kukan counts 100 corporations on his "active prospects" list. As general manager of new-site development for PSE&G, New Jersey's largest electric utility, Mr. Kukan's job is to bring new firms to this region.
The task, he concedes, takes a lot of hard work these days.
The mid-Atlantic states, since the late 1980s, have been in economic upheaval, as scores of companies in manufacturing and financial services downsized, disappeared in mergers, or fled the region for states with lower taxes. The downward course was further exacerbated by the recession of 1991-1992. The greater New York area shed hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Now, job growth is once again under way, thanks in part to efforts by people like PSE&G's Kukan.
But much of the gains are in service jobs that pay low or modest wages, while high-paying middle-management positions are being cut. And jobs are being created at a paltry pace. Last year, regional employment rose 0.9 percent, according to a recent analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That is well below rates following past recessions, say Fed economists James Orr and Rae Rosen. This year, the bank sees job growth in New York-New Jersey coming to 0.8 percent, or about half the rate some predict for the nation at large. About two-thirds of the total will be generated in New York; a third in New Jersey.
SLOW growth here has implications far beyond the immediate region: New Jersey, for example, is a "swing state" that often votes for the winning presidential ticket. Also, sluggish growth in the region can influence perceptions of the overall US economy, since this is a center of national print and broadcast media.
Moreover, low job prospects here can induce workers to move to other urban areas. The greater New York area has the largest population concentration in the United States, about 18 million people. But the region is short on some of the sectors now growing the fastest nationwide, says Cynthia Latta, an economist with DRI/McGraw-Hill, a consulting firm in Lexington, Mass.
The main regional planning agency here, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, expects job growth of just 0.6 percent this year. The meager job growth is concentrated in the suburbs. Gains in New York City have been minuscule, about 7,500 positions last year. Still, those figures mask a deeper trend in the Big Apple. While public-sector jobs are disappearing, more private-sector jobs are being created. New York City had 3.3 million jobs in 1995, about 47 percent of the total metropolitan job base.
Here's how the New York Fed sees the job picture by industry sectors:
Services. This is the region's "new" job base. In New York and New Jersey, the number of service jobs is expected to rise 1.5 to 2 percent this year. That's up, but below the expected national growth of 2.5 percent to 3 percent.
Financial services. The Fed anticipates "moderate" declines in financial-sector employment here. Brokerage houses, banks, and insurance firms continue to downsize. While the companies themselves are growing, their additions are coming in other states.
Manufacturing. While blue-collar jobs are still disappearing here, they are doing so at a slower pace - an expected drop of 14,000 this year versus 21,000 last year.
Government. Here jobs are also disappearing. In New York State, 42,000 government jobs will have dried up in the 1995-96 period.