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N.J. posts modest job gains as unemployment climbs

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New Jersey employers posted in August the most modest monthly employment since December 2011, adding 5,300 jobs last month, while the state's unemployment rate climbed further above the national rate to 9.9 percent.

The public sector contributed the greatest portion of August job gains, adding 3,500 jobs, mostly at the local level, while the private sector increased employment by 1,800 jobs.

July's dismal jobs number was revised up to record a total monthly employment loss of 7,300 jobs, from the originally reported loss of 12,000 jobs.

"As was the case for March, the initial report of a very marked drop in jobs in July proved to be overstated, and after the one-month interruption, job growth in New Jersey in August returned to the steady positive pace of the last year," Charles Steindel, chief economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury, said in a statement.

In August, four of the state's 10 private-sector industries reported increased payrolls, including professional and business services, which added 6,100 jobs mainly in the administrative support and remediation segments after severe cutbacks in July; trade, transportation and utilities, with 2,900 jobs; retail, with 3,400 jobs; and information, with 200 jobs.

Industry sectors with the largest job losses were manufacturing, which shed 2,700 jobs; financial activities, down 1,400 jobs; education and health services, down 1,400 jobs; leisure and hospitality, down 1,200 jobs; and construction, down 600 jobs.

On a conference call, Steindel said the household survey, which calculated the state's 9.9 percent unemployment rate, shows a "180 degree divergent" from the payroll data that he said "shows continued steady growth."

"I think the accurate report is the more positive one. The margin of error in the household survey is twice as large as the payroll survey," Steindel said on the call. "If the household survey was right, we would have seen 15,000 or more new unemployment claims a week … and 600 jobs lost a day, including weekends, in August, and that didn't happen."

In a statement, state Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said the August state employment data "feels like Groundhog Day."

"Every month we have to hear the same bad news, followed by the same inevitable spin from this administration trying to hide why it is so completely inept at getting people back to work," Sweeney said in a statement. "While the Legislature will be working on measures to create jobs in New Jersey, and has already put ideas forward, we still have not heard a thing from the governor on how we are going to get people back to work."

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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