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N.J. private sector adds 4,000 jobs in Oct. as unemployment drops

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New Jersey's private sector added 4,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percentage points, to 9.1 percent, according to state officials.

Total employment rose by 2,500, as the public sector lost 1,500 jobs. The state's private sector has added 38,600 in the nine months since January.

The state's employment numbers also benefited from a revision in September's jobs report. According to the revision, New Jersey lost 5,000 jobs, rather than the preliminary estimate of 11,100.

"That's a significant improvement, certainly over 2010, and an indication that the state is making progress in the private sector," said Joseph J. Seneca, an economist at Rutgers University's Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. "Now public-sector jobs have declined, but that's by design."

He noted state officials' focus on preventing tax increases.

"There's been a realization, given the significant fiscal problems of the last several years for state and local government, that we could not just simply increase tax rates to fund the operations, as harsh a reality as that has been," Seneca said.

Seneca said while the state is on pace for its best private-sector job growth since the late 1990s this year, it and the national economy could be affected by the European financial crisis, which he likened to a "slow-motion train wreck."

The services sector led the gains with 2,600 new jobs, while educational and health services added 2,600 and manufacturing gained 1,500. The biggest sectors to lose jobs were information, with 1,600 fewer jobs; leisure and hospitality, down 1,100; and financial activities and construction, both down 700. The state government dropped 2,000 jobs, while local government gained 500.

Treasury's chief economist, Charles Steindel, said in a statement that the state's economy is moving forward. "The pace of improvement is much less than we all desire, but we are going the right way," he said.

In October, weekly earnings dropped by 9 cents, to $774.97, compared with a month earlier, but increased by $16.66 compared with October 2010.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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