New Jersey Economy Surging Thanks to Tourism, Low Unemployment

[toc]New Jersey can often be the butt of jokes, but the Garden State is the one laughing last after the latest report on tourism numbers.

The state generated over $44 billion in tourism spending in 2016. This is the seventh straight year tourism has grown in New Jersey.

Casinos played vital role in tourism boom

Last year, 98 million people visited New Jersey. That number represents a three-percent increase over 2015. Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno revealed the numbers during a March tourism conference in Atlantic City.

A deeper dive into the tourism figures indicates what a big role casinos play in the industry, as well as how important tourism is to the state’s overall economy:

  • Casino win increased for the first time in ten years
  • Casino stabilization after 2014 closures helped address both revenue and employment figures
  • Nearly one in every ten jobs in the state is in the tourism industry
  • Direct tourism represents 6.5 percent of the entire state economy

Atlantic County, home of Atlantic City, is the most lucrative county in terms of tourism. The recent surge in the city, including a couple of major casino sales, has economists optimistic the city is bouncing back after a decade of struggles.

Christie does not think Trump’s travel ban will impact New Jersey

Other tourism industries are concerned President Donald Trump’s restrictions on international travelers in the US will result in a downturn in tourism revenue.

According to the state’s tourism stats for 2016, the number of international travelers in New Jersey was already down last year. International visitors account for just seven percent of the New Jersey tourism market. The report predicts a drop in international tourism throughout the country thanks to the President’s rhetoric. Visitors to the country could drop over eight percent, representing over $10 billion of potentially lost revenue.

Gov. Chris Christie acknowledges the country may see tourism setbacks, but he thinks his state will not be too affected by any international travel decline.

“Our tourism is predominantly focused on one time of the year and is not focused on international travel, beyond Canada,” Christie said. “New York, obviously, much different. But my sense is that I don’t think a six-nation Middle Eastern travel ban — in any form — would have a significant effect on Jersey Shore tourism numbers.”

State currently has lower unemployment rate than national average

The tourism economy was not the only thing growing last year. Jobs in New Jersey also surged. Christie announced the state has officially replaced all the jobs lost after the 2007 recession.

The US Department of Labor says New Jersey created over 60,000 jobs last year. Christie was quick to celebrate the achievement.

“That means our job growth in New Jersey, is four times higher than previously estimated for 2016. So all of this previous reporting about New Jersey lagging the rest of the country turns out to be incorrect,” he said last month. “This didn’t happen by accident. Tax cuts we put into place are now bearing fruit.”

New Jersey unemployment currently sits at 4.7 percent, which is a tenth of a percent below the national average. The bulk of the new jobs came from the manufacturing and construction industries. Some of those are likely tied to one of a number of Atlantic City projects, like the forthcoming observation wheel or refurbishing of soon-to-be rebranded casinos.

Image credit: f11photo /

About the Author

Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media and online gambling world. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for Welman has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.