TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey’s unemployment rate rose .2 percent to 9.8 percent in July, hitting its highest point in 35 years.
The state’s jobless rate has now been at or above 9 percent for 38 consecutive months.
The July unemployment rate is 1.5 percentage points higher than the national rate.
Nationally, unemployment rose by one-tenth of 1 percent in July, to 8.3 percent. The state had 12,000 fewer non-farm jobs in July than it did in June.
The rate last reached 9.9 percent in April 1977.
“It is a disappointing report after a couple of months in which the state appeared to be making progress toward addressing its labor market needs,” said Patrick J. O’Keefe, director of economic research at J.H. Cohn. “We now have a record number of individuals unemployed in New Jersey.”
Labor Commissioner Hal Wirths cautioned that the numbers are preliminary and stressed that New Jersey has seen private-sector job growth in nine of the past 11 months.
“May and June had two of the best rates of private-sector job growth in 12 years,” Wirths told The Associated Press. He also said New Jersey has a higher percentage of its residents actively participating in the labor market than nationally, which skews the state’s joblessness number compared to the national rate.
Last month, the state’s unemployment rate jumped to 9.6 percent from 9.2 percent in May, even as the state added 9,900 jobs.
The persistently high unemployment rate has Democrats questioning whether Gov. Chris Christie’s so-called “Jersey Comeback” is actually moving forward.
Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald, a frequent critic of Christie’s economic policies, derisively referred to it as the “Jersey Setback” on Thursday.
“In addition to vetoing job-creation bills with bipartisan support, Gov. Christie has stubbornly rejected proposals for middle-class property tax relief that will grow New Jersey’s economy,” said Greenwald. “We’ve had nearly three years of Christie’s slogans, and the results are in: net property taxes are up 20 percent, unemployment is at a sky-high 9.8 percent and middle-class families continue to struggle.”
Democratic leaders say Christie is overstating how well the state is doing and that the state should be cautious about enacting the tax cuts he wants.
However, Christie’s office repeated its tax-cut mantra Thursday. In a statement to reporters, the administration said the 10 percent phased-in tax cut the governor proposed is essential to bolstering the state’s economy and creating permanent jobs.
Wirths said the administration has seen restoration of a third of the 237,000 private-sector jobs they say were lost during Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration.
He said if Democrats enact more of Christie’s tax and regulatory cuts, job growth will accelerate.
Are you a New Jersey resident and still out of work? What do you think needs to be done to get New Jerseyans employed?
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