While U.S. employers maintained their typical slow and steady hiring pace in December, New Jersey today recorded its single sharpest employment spike in more than 20 years with the creation of 30,200 jobs last month — though November's steep job loss was revised down even further.
"With December marking the single greatest job gain since 1990, we're seeing the state begin to recover from the blow delivered by Sandy," Charles Steindel, chief economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury, said in a statement. "While we still have work to do, the sustained job growth we saw over 2012 and December's strong showing certainly makes it clear that New Jersey is moving into 2013 on a very positive note."
The unusually robust job gain in December was driven by the private sector, which added 30,900 jobs as the public sector shed 700 jobs at the state and local government levels. Nine of the state's 10 private-sector industries reported employment increases last month, including transportation and utilities, which added 6,000 jobs; education and health services, which added 5,600 jobs; construction, which added 4,300 jobs; professional and business services, which added 3,900; leisure and hospitality, which added 3,300 jobs; and financial activities, which added 2,300 jobs.
At a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Chris Christie said those numbers are "the continued evidence of economic recovery in the state, which we have been talking about. What it tells you is that New Jersey is doing quite well."
New Jersey Business & Industry Association President Philip Kirschner said in a statement "some of December's job growth is a result of businesses reopening their doors and bringing back their employees after recovering from the effects of the storm, but New Jersey was already showing continued slow but steady growth in its economy and its job market" before Hurricane Sandy.
"Before Sandy hit, our member companies were anticipating improvement in sales, profits and employment in 2013, and we believe they still think that," Kirschner said in a statement.
For the fourth consecutive month, the state's unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percent, to 9.6 percent. However, last month's originally posted loss of 8,100 jobs was revised down to show employers shed 10,500 jobs.
And while the national private-sector hiring pace of 153,000 jobs created per month in 2012 matched employment growth in 2011, New Jersey's employment picture for the year was brighter compared to last year's growth, as employers in the state added 38,700 jobs between January 2011 and December 2011, and the inclusion of today's number and November's revision put the employment increase between January 2012 and December 2012 at 48,000 jobs.
Contributing: Jared Kaltwasser
Correction appended: New Jersey employers added 38,700 jobs between January 2011 and December 2011. An earlier version of this story included the incorrect number of jobs added.