News Column

New Jersey Added 8,100 Jobs in March

April 19, 2013

A report showing New Jersey's added 8,100 jobs in March white the jobless rate dropped to 9 percent contained a note of caution amid the apparently positive news.

The state added 10,400 private sector jobs, and lost 2,300 government jobs, about evenly spread among federal, state and municipal government, according to the jobs report released Thursday by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

That means New Jersey's employment has increased by a healthy 17,500 jobs this year, a rate that, if it continued, would mean an increase of more than 100,000 this year.

Yet the drop in the jobless rate, which fell from 9.3 percent in February, continues to raise questions about what is happening below the surface.

New Jersey's rate is still well above the national rate, which was 7.6 percent in March. And the data shows that the decline in the rate was largely driven by people leaving the workforce -- with 21,300 leaving the labor force, and employment falling by 4,600 as the number of unemployed fell by 16,7000.

"Unemployment went down not because people got jobs, but because they got out of looking for jobs," said Patrick O'Keefe, director of economic research at CohnReznick. "The reason the unemployment rate has improved is because of discouragement of job seekers."

That echoes the picture at the national level, where the rate dropped from 7.7 percent in February after half a million people dropped out of the workforce.

It's not unusual for the employment figures and the unemployment rate to paint different pictures of the job market because each is based on separate survey, unrelated to the other. The employment figures are based on a sample of employer payrolls, while the jobless rate is based on a household telephone survey.

Governor Christie said new jobs numbers that indicate the state's unemployment has rate improved again shows "New Jersey is making progress."

"New Jersey is making progress and everyone but Sen. Buono feels it," Christie said, taking a shot at his expected opponent in the gubernatorial election in the fall, Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex.

The department's monthly report also reduced by 3,500 the previously reported gain of 12,900 jobs in February, to 9,400 jobs.

Charles Steindel, chief economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury, saw the report as good news.

"Once again, jobs and unemployment are moving in the right direction," said Steindel, adding that the report reflected "the growing strength in the state's economy."

Source: (c)2013 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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