ELIZABETH—While the administration of Mayor J. Christian Bollwage often boasts about economic initiatives that have garnered investment worth billions of dollars and millions in municipal revenue, the federal agency that monitors employment reports that no more city residents are working today than there were in 1990.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the federal labor department, reported that there were 51,985 Elizabeth residents employed in February 1990 and just 51,455 people with jobs living in the city in February 2008.
An elected official in city government for 26 years, Bollwage has helped developers acquire land and government bond funding plus he established several new taxes and special districts that levy extra assessments on commercial property owners.
In campaign literature and information published by the city, Bollwage claims that he helped bring thousands of jobs to the city, an assertion belied by the federal data.
According to the latest statistics available, there were 51,455 Elizabeth residents with jobs in February, as well as 4,250 jobless, contributing to an unemployment rate of 7.6.
That was the highest unemployment rate since September 2004.
In February, 1990, there were 51,985 employed people living in Elizabeth and an unemployment rate of 8.2. In February, 1999, when there were 51,900 city residents with jobs, the unemployment rate stood at 7.9.
Fluctuations in the unemployment rate occur because as one looks back over time, there were more citizens hoping to get a job.
Record levels of despair have reduced the ‘labor market’—or number of residents working or who are searching for employment—despite large increases in the city’s overall population.
While the Census Bureau estimates population increased from 110,002 in 1990 to 126,179 in 2006, the number of people that want to work has declined from more than 58,000 to about 55,000.
Meanwhile, Bollwage touts programs of which economists have been critical and others have called corporate welfare.
The enterprise zone philosophy comes from the theory of supply side economics, a philosophy advanced by Republicans since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The benefits of these business bailouts is worth the cost, according to public interest researchers.
“New Jersey taxpayers shouldn’t have to support payoffs for layoffs,” said Jon Shure, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, who says “subsidies are bad business for the state.”
Dr. Daniel Nozza, a Bollwage critic, remarked that city taxpayers financed millions of dollars in tax breaks for IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, a Swedish businessman who surpassed Bill Gates as the wealthiest person in the world in 2004.
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