TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Helped by summer hiring, New Jersey added
17,600 jobs in May — the biggest jump in more than seven years
— even as the unemployment rate climbed a second straight
month, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.
State officials said a greater than expected increase in
seasonal employment and the opening of the Revel casino helped
boost the job numbers.
Gov. Chris Christie used a news conference to announce the
figures ahead of their routine release by the Labor Department
on one of the busiest days of the year for state legislators,
who face a litany of key bills before the state’s fiscal year
ends June 30.
The governor said the numbers mean New Jersey led the nation in
job creation in May and was responsible for one-fourth of the
nationwide job growth.
That’s true, but in a time when national growth has been slow,
it’s not a great accomplishment, said Patrick O’Keefe, director
of economic research at J.H. Cohn in Roseland. “It’s like
taking credit for one-fourth of a Lilliputian,” he said.
O’Keefe said the number of jobs in New Jersey is still below
the level it was 12 years ago, even though the working-age
population has grown significantly during that time.
The report showed unemployment rising for the second straight
month, up one-tenth of a point to 9.2 percent. State officials
attributed that increase to more people actively looking for
work, and O’Keefe agreed.
Christie said the latest jobs report supports his argument for
a state income tax cut.
Some Democratic lawmakers say the revenue projection figures
he’s using for his proposed state budget are too optimistic. He
said Thursday that the new job figures, which are compiled by
the federal Labor Department, show that New Jersey’s economy is
growing and that the state can afford to cut taxes.
The industry sector with the largest gain in May was leisure
and hospitality, which added 9,900 jobs, helped by hiring at
Revel and greater than expected season hiring, the Labor
Department said. Public employment was also higher by 4,700,
due mainly to seasonal hiring.
On the other hand, the state reported its largest
over-the-month decline occurred in the financial activities
sector, a key part of New Jersey’s economy, with 4,800 jobs
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