EAST RUTHERFORD—Reserved optimism was the message at NAIOP New Jersey’s 2012 Commercial Real Estate Forecast and Annual Meeting at the Sheraton Meadowlands.

“We are moving forward, but there are still steep employment deficits and skepticism about recovery,” said Dr. James Hughes, Dean of The Bloustein School at Rutgers University. Noting that as of December 2011 there remained a deficit of 5.6 million jobs nationally from pre-recession totals, “we have fully recovered the nation’s output, but not the jobs.

While placing the current jobs deficit in New Jersey at 187,900, “the state has made an upturn, and recovery is on track,” Hughes said. “From December 2010 to December 2011, the nation gained 1.9 million jobs, and New Jersey gained 39,400 jobs. Progress is being made.

Turning specifically to commercial real estate, panel moderator Andrew Houston, vice president and principal of Cassidy Turley, termed 2011 “schizophrenic” with its ups and downs. Still, “we are seeing positive momentum.”

Responding to Houston’s question on whether the low cap rates are sustainable, “current cap rates will continue for the rest of the year,” predicted Ed Russo, President and COO of Russo Development. “We’ve seen more demand for industrial product in the last six months to a year than we’ve ever seen from institutions looking to buy real estate in New Jersey.”

Putting current New Jersey cap rates in the six to 6.5 percent range, Brian Townsend, senior vice president of CenterPoint Properties agreed with that prediction: “Those rates are at historic lows, and I believe they will stay there.”

“There is so much cash sitting on the sidelines,” said John Orrico, president of National Realty & Development Corp., noting, “Canadian money is part of that. There is a belief that the economy is getting better."