Princeton’s Employment Status During COVID – How to Find a Job Today

With all the doom and gloom in the media about the economy, it is easy to think there is no hope to find work. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Here are some things you should know to make your job search more productive.

Current status of workforce in Princeton area

It is exciting to know that Mercer County and Princeton have the lowest unemployment rates in New Jersey (6.9% in Princeton and West Windsor, 12% Mercer County, 11.1% US, 16.6% NJ, Atlantic County – worst in NJ at 34.3%) according to New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJ LWD) June 2020 statistics. Prior to COVID the Mercer County rate was at 3.6% – roughly half the COVID rate. The difference between the US unemployment rate versus the NJ and Mercer County rates is the timing at which COVID impacted the remainder of the country.

Statewide, there are several industry sectors that have been growing significantly coming out of the first half of 2020. The 3 top sectors in June are Trade, Transportation & Logistics; Leisure & Hospitality; and Education & Healthcare. These are not surprising as we reopen the economy. They also lost the most jobs going into COVID. Doing poorly now are Information Systems & Technology, Financial Services, and Government.

Resources available in the area

There are a ton of resources available to the unemployed in NJ. You just need to reach out to them. Some are easier to access than others for sure; but with a little perseverance you will get the help you want, mostly at no cost. Here are the ones I most recommend.

NJ LWD – The NJ Department of Labor has 2 sides: Unemployment Insurance and Employment (or Labor & Workforce Development). There are a great deal of resources available to you as a New Jersey resident. Go to:

New Start Career Network – A free program to assist the long-term unemployed within NJ offered through Rutgers University. They have many online resources to assist with job search, networking, and interview skills; offer free webinars on the job search process; and provide free access to career coaches and mentors. Go to:

The Professional Service Group (PSG) of Mercer County – The job seekers group located in the Princeton Public Library, run by David Schuchman, has a host of no cost services. Virtual meetings every Friday at 10am offering networking and excellent guest speakers on job search related topics, plus a library of resources on its website. Got to:

The Landing Expert/Alex Freund – A local and REALLY good career coach, provides a listing of job seeker support groups in NJ and the surrounding area on his website. Alex specializes in online, in-person, and phone interviewing techniques. Go to:

The Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group – This group based across the Delaware offers a myriad of excellent resources. There is a small annual membership fee, but they provide links to hundreds of great how-to articles on everything from LinkedIn Profiles to beating the ATS to networking to interviewing and anything else you can imagine related to the job search process, plus several online networking meetings each week. It is run by ATS author and expert career coach, Lynne Williams. Go to:

The Princeton Public Library and the Princeton Adult School –These organizations are operating during COVID and are slowly increasing their available services. The library is eager to assist you and has a host of online and live resources available.  Go to:

The Princeton Adult School is also offering online courses. Often, they include courses relevant to professional skills development or career exploration. Go to:

Advice for moving forward in COVID

Employers in all sectors have been and are hiring at least for “essential positions” which means 2 things:

  1. Determine if your role is essential to an industry or employer and go after it there,
  2. Keep after your target list of employers. Your desired role just may become an essential hire if the person doing it leaves the company

Several business sectors are thriving in COVID. Can you pivot to meet their needs? Changing careers is not easy. Mainly it requires you speak about yourself in the language of the new industry and showcase your transferable skills.

Now, as always, is the best time to network with the employed. Too often I see job seekers primarily networking with their close friends and relatives or other unemployed people. I recommend you participate in industry, professional, or alumni associations for these are places where the employed gather and network. Here is a partial list of good associations in NJ as examples, but there are many others. Call your local reference librarian for help finding the right one for you.

PMI-NJ Chapter for project managers
HRMA – local SHRM chapter for HR professionals
Mid NJ ATD – local chapter of talent development professionals
ChemPharma Professional Association
NJAPA or NJCPA – local chapters for accounting and finance professionals or

Talking to people gets you a job, not sitting at a computer. Statistically over the past 2 decades (according to the NJ LWD), and anecdotally over the past 5 months, 80% of employees report that talking to a friend, coworker or the hiring manager directly got them the interview that landed the job. Less than 10 % report getting a job through online applications.

Have a well-defined project plan. I strongly advise job seekers to do this. The plan includes measurable objectives and distinct steps that lead to the goal of a job. It also includes a Work Search Buddy, so you do not go it alone; a career coach to provide the strategic guidance you need; and other supports like some of the above resources.


Based on my research, the job market for Princetonians is good! It is getting better nationwide and statewide, but we have a long way to go for pre-COVID unemployment. It is my opinion that we will be seeing more disruptors like COVID in our short- and long-term future; so being adept at job search techniques and planning for multiple jobs and/or careers going forward is a skill you will need.