Jobless rates for New York, Connecticut and New Jersey all climbed in July, with New Jersey seeing its highest unemployment rate since 1977, according to data from the three neighboring states on Thursday.
New Jersey's jobless rate rose for the fourth month in a row, to 9.8 percent, up from 9.6 percent in June and from 9.4 percent in July 2011, according to preliminary numbers from the state Department of Labor.
New York's unemployment rate also increased from both June and the year-earlier month, rising to 9.1 percent. In June the jobless rate was 8.9 percent, and a year-ago July it was 8.2 percent, the state reported.
In Connecticut the unemployment rate climbed to 8.5 percent from 8.1 percent in June, but was down from 8.9 percent a year-ago.
For New York City, whose financial industry is the economic engine for the tri-state region, unemployment was unchanged at 10 percent in July, but still above year-ago levels when it was 9 percent, according to the data from the state's Labor Department.
New Jersey Democrats seized on the latest data to blast Republican Governor Chris Christie's self-proclaimed "comeback" for the state.
"What I want to see is this administration admit it is failing in terms of getting people back to work," said New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney in a statement.
Christie will be the keynote speaker for the Republican National Convention later this month.
The jobless rate of all three states is above the U.S. unemployment rate for July of 8.3 percent.
In releasing its preliminary data, the New Jersey Labor Department noted that private sector employers have added 79,000 jobs since February 2010 and said the "long-term employment trend continues to be positive." The state lost a total of 12,000 jobs in July, the department said.
Both New Jersey and Connecticut have regained almost 33 percent of the jobs lost during the recession. New York has regained all of the private sector jobs that were cut during that period.
The latest data intensified a debate over why unemployment rates are rising in some states and cities at the same time that local employers are hiring.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said he was skeptical about the sharp divergence between the rising unemployment rate, which is based on a survey of households, and the employer survey, which showed his state gained 5,100 jobs.
"To buy into the household survey number, you'd have to believe that Connecticut lost 530 jobs every day during the month of July, and there's just no evidence to suggest that happened," Malloy said in a statement.
Barbara Byrne Denham, chief economist at Eastern Consolidated, a real estate investment services firm, addressed the contradictory unemployment data for New York City. While the city has added 205,000 jobs since the recession, "the number of New York City residents employed is lower than it was at that recession nadir," she said in a report.
She disagreed with some economists who have said the new jobs went to workers who commute into the city. Denham attributed some of the differences between the household and the employer surveys to the population estimates that are used in the models for the federal jobs data, noting the 2010 Census Bureau cut the estimated growth in New York City's population to 2.1 percent a year from 4.7 percent.
Wall Street has had a difficult summer, partly due to Europe's debt crisis, and Denham said the city's securities industry lost 3,300 jobs in July, on a seasonally adjusted analysis. Still, the private education sector had the biggest job growth, adding 12,300 positions, perhaps boosted by summer camps.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ and Joan Gralla; Editing by Bernard Orr)