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Despite drop in unemployment rate, N.J. lost more than 36,000 jobs last month

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Though New Jersey again saw its unemployment rate take a dip last month, the state saw the loss of more than 36,000 private- and public-sector jobs in December, according to a report released Thursday by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The private sector experienced the brunt of the blow, losing 33,200 jobs, while an additional 3,100 public-sector jobs were lost.

Eight of the nine major industries experienced private-sector losses, with leisure and hospitality, education and health services and construction taking the biggest hits.

The department says that despite the losses, the data still points to four consecutive years of private-sector job growth in the state, beginning in February of 2010, the recession low for private-sector employment.

The monthly report also indicates that the state's unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percent last month to an overall 7.3 percent. In November, a 0.6 percentage point drop was heralded by the department as the largest monthly drop on record.

"Despite these preliminary estimates, we anticipate that the new year will see a resumption in New Jersey's job growth," Charles Steindel, chief economist for the state treasury, said in a statement. "Other indicators of state activity, such as home sales, unemployment insurance claims and business surveys, all remain on the right track, as does the state's long-term economic strength."

But Gordon MacInnes, president of liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, says the report tells him the state's "crawl out of the recession remains as slow as ever."

New Jersey is lagging behind New York in regaining jobs lost in the recession, and the drop in unemployment just shows that New Jerseyans are giving up on searching for work, MacInnes said in a statement.

"The bottom line is that New Jersey's economic prospects are far from rosy, and our policymakers need to find a more effective pathway than simply continuing the pattern of tax cuts and tax breaks that clearly haven't worked," MacInnes said.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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