New Jersey unemployment rate drops but private jobs still lag

Thu Jun 19, 2014 1:30pm EDT

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(Reuters) - New Jersey's unemployment rate dipped slightly to 6.8 percent in May, the lowest rate since November 2008, but the state had 2,900 fewer private sector jobs than it did last May, according to official preliminary data released on Thursday.

New Jersey's economic recovery has lagged its neighbors and the rest of the nation. It has recovered less than half of the jobs it lost during the recession, while the United States overall has recovered more than 100 percent.

New York, for example, had 103,100 more seasonally adjusted private sector jobs this May than it did last May, an increase of 1.4 percent, the state labor department said on Thursday, citing preliminary data.

New Jersey's sluggish job growth has contributed to a more than $2.7 billion revenue shortfall through fiscal 2015. State lawmakers have less than two weeks to craft a balanced budget for next year.

Year over year, New Jersey's construction and financial industries have shed thousands of jobs, while the service sector and utilities and transportation have gained, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed. New Jersey also gained 2,600 public employees since last May.

Overall, the state had 3,320,800 private sector jobs in May, a slight decline of 200 jobs compared to April's revised number.

"While not every month sees a gain, the job situation seems to be gradually improving," New Jersey's chief economist Charles Steindel said in a statement, noting that April's private job numbers were better than originally calculated.

New York, by comparison, had 7,568,600 private sector jobs in May, or 21,300 more than the previous month, preliminary data showed.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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