The average weekly earnings for private-sector employees in New Jersey rose to $898.80 in March, a 2.2 percent increase over the last 12 months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth followed a 0.1 percent drop the previous year.
"That 2.2 percent should outpace inflation, which is around 1.7 percent," said Philip Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. "That's always a good thing."
New Jersey's wages are above the national average weekly earnings, which rose 1.9 percent to $818.40, and the state's wages rank eighth highest in the nation.
"I think that speaks well to the growth we're having," Kirschner said. "The labor market is up almost 50,000 jobs from a year ago. There is a greater demand for employees, and businesses that have had several years of austerity are rewarding their employees with bigger raises."
In New Jersey, weekly wages in manufacturing rose 2.9 percent, and in professional and business services, wages increased 2.5 percent.
"Manufacturing wages have always been higher in New Jersey than other states," Kirschner said. "Professional and business services and manufacturing are two areas you want to see go up. They are two leaders in the state."
Construction, education and health services, trade, transportation and utilities, and other services showed below-average growth in wages, ranging from 1.9 to 1.0 percent. In contrast, two sectors experienced declines in weekly wages: Leisure and hospitality was down 1.3 percent and financial activities declined by 3.3 percent.
"Leisure and hospitality were certainly affected by Sandy," Kirschner said. "It might have been a plus category otherwise."
The average workweek in New Jersey remained unchanged at 33.6 hours. Manufacturing reported the longest average workweek with 39.7 hours, followed by financial activities, professional and business services and construction. Average weekly hours in trade, transportation and utilities were unchanged. Leisure and hospitality reported the shortest workweek at 26 hours, the only industry with an average workweek under 30 hours.
Among the eight metropolitan areas located primarily in New Jersey, weekly earnings for employees ranged from $1,034.59 in Trenton-Ewing to $703.46 in Atlantic City-Hammonton.
Average weekly earnings rose in seven metropolitan areas, led by Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton. Camden was the only area to experience a decline in average weekly and hourly earnings.
"The report is primarily good news," Kirschner said. "It confirms a slow but steady growth. We're getting back to where we were, slower than perhaps we had hoped, but we're getting there."