June Jobs Numbers: New Jersey’s Unemployment Rate Jumps to 9.6 Percent, the 4th Highest in the Nation

New Jersey’s unemployment rate increased 0.4 percent in June, to 9.6 percent – the highest level since July 2010. The state now has the 4th highest unemployment rate of all 50 states, and a significantly higher rate than the national average of 8.2 percent. In the last year, the nation’s unemployment rate has dropped 0.9 percent, but New Jersey’s has risen 0.2 percent.

June’s unemployment rate is just 0.1 percent lower than it was when Gov. Christie took office in early 2010; back then, the January 2010 rate of 9.7 percent was the 19th highest of the 50 states.

The unemployment rate rose despite job gains of 9,900 in June as more New Jerseyans are actively looking for jobs and officially entering or re-entering the state’s labor force. The administration likes to tout that as a clear sign that the state’s economy is improving, but it’s also a good reminder that the unemployment rate is a relatively narrow measure of those who are jobless, since it doesn’t include those who’ve given up and stopped looking or want to work full-time but are stuck with part-time jobs.

New Jersey has added 24,300 jobs in the last two months even as its unemployment rate has inched up by half a percentage point (the much-touted data that showed 17,600 jobs added in May was revised down to 14,400). However, a closer look at the types of jobs being added does little to assure that the state’s “Comeback” is the real deal.

Nearly two-thirds of the 24,300 jobs added in May and June – 14,900 – were in the Leisure and Hospitality sector. This relatively low-paid and unstable sector has been “boosted by greater than expected seasonal hiring” and “by hiring at Revel Atlantic City,” per the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Meanwhile, the state has shed 3,000 higher-wage financial services jobs and 3,600 manufacturing jobs in the same two months.

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