New Jersey's unemployment rate in February held at 7.1 percent from January, but the month did see the loss of 3,700 total public- and private-sector jobs, according to a report Thursday by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The job losses were concentrated in the private sector, which saw the reduction of 4,900 positions last month. The public sector recorded an increase of 1,200 jobs, with gains at the federal and local levels.
The department is quick to point out, however, that 10,400 private-sector jobs have been added since February 2012.
State Department of Treasury Chief Economist Charles Steindel said the harsh winter the state has experienced hasn't helped its economy.
"The winter has clearly affected the state's job market — the February count, especially in a sector like leisure and hospitality, was probably held down by the big storm around Valentine's Day," Steindel said. "The large and welcome upward revision for January suggests that, in these conditions, the preliminary numbers may be less reliable than usual. We anticipate that the numbers should get better with the weather."
In January, the department reported a loss of 3,900 total public- and private-sector jobs but posted the state's lowest unemployment rate since December 2008.
Gains in private-sector employment in February were seen in sectors involving trade, transportation and utilities; information, education and health services; and professional and business services. Losses were recorded in leisure and hospitality, financial activities, construction and manufacturing.
Gordon MacInnes, president of liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, said February's numbers confirm the state's "slow, sideways crawl out of the recession." What also needs to be accounted for is that, over the past year, MacInnes said, more than 98,000 New Jerseyans have given up looking for work.
"Overall, the Garden State is better off than it was during the depths of the recession — but not by much, and our recovery continues to lag that of our neighbors," MacInnes said. "New Jersey has now recovered just 38 percent of the jobs it lost during the great recession. New York, by comparison, has recovered 122 percent and Pennsylvania has recovered 81 percent."
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