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U.S. jobs picture improves; 'should give wind to N.J.'s sails,' expert says

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Private-sector job growth accelerated in May, overcoming any obstacles posed by sequestration and health care reform, a trend one expert said bodes well for New Jersey.

Private employers added 188,000 nationwide in June, according to Roseland payroll processing firm ADP. That's up from 134,000 jobs in May and the highest total since February.

"A stronger national report should give wind to New Jersey's sails," James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

Hughes said ADP reports are trending similar to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly updates. Both show steady, though unspectacular, job growth.

"If we continue at this pace, we'll have 2.4 million new private-sector jobs this year," Hughes said of national trends. "I think that suggests the labor market certainly has weathered" the headwinds.

Federal labor figures for June are due out Friday. New Jersey's unemployment stood at 8.6 percent in May, the most recent month available. The state jobless rate is still well above historic norms of about 5 percent, though New Jersey unemployment has fallen four straight months.

Hughes said New Jersey job growth has roughly mirrored the national pace, except the state hasn't shared in the manufacturing rebound. He said that's mostly because the automobile industry — not a New Jersey stronghold — benefited from government rescue, while energy industry growth is concentrated in other states.

Hughes said the Obama administration's announcement Tuesday that it will delay until 2015 the mandate that all employers of 50 or more workers provide health insurance to their employees could temporarily remove another obstacle.

"It may be a positive in terms of 2013," Hughes said. "If they had any delay in terms of hiring, they don't have to worry about it for another year."

The national report showed that most new jobs, 161,000, came from service providers. Goods producers generated the remaining 27,000 jobs.

In terms of size, small businesses, defined as employing 49 or fewer workers, were the largest category of job creators in the ADP report, adding 84,000 jobs.

"The job market continues to gracefully navigate through the strongly blowing fiscal headwinds," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's analytics, said in a statement. "Health care reform does not appear to be significantly hampering job growth, at least not so far. Job gains are broad based across industries and businesses of all sizes."

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