NJ Adds Record 30,900 Private Jobs in December

(AP) -

New York’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.2%

Private employers in New Jersey added 30,900 jobs in December, the largest one-month gain since the current system of employment tracking began in 1990, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.

Economists say that cleaning up from Superstorm Sandy and the start of rebuilding were factors, but there was strong growth in areas that seem to have been unaffected by the storm.

James Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University said, “It’s kind of spectacular job growth for December.”

But it comes with caveats.

The strong month capped a sluggish year and accounted for about two-thirds of the state’s total job growth for 2012. Even with the new jobs, the unemployment rate was a stubbornly high 9.6 percent. That’s the same as the rate initially reported for November. But on Thursday, November’s rate was adjusted upward to 9.7 percent.

The unemployment rate remained nearly 2 points higher in New Jersey than the national December rate of 7.8 percent.

Also, New Jersey’s public sector employment dipped by 700 for the month. But overall job growth for the month was still more than 30,000.

“New Jersey has 1.2 percent more jobs today than it did a year ago,” said Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at J.H. Cohn. “That’s better than going backward, but it’s still not very robust.”

O’Keefe said that at the current growth rate, it would take three more years for the state to get back to the number of jobs it had in December 2007, just before the Great Recession began taking its toll on jobs.

The December job growth came across all major private industry sectors. Construction added 4,300 at a time of year when employment in that industry would normally be dropping. The economists said that’s linked to early post-Sandy rebuilding efforts.

Hughes also said some of the 2,300 additional financial sector jobs are related to storm recovery as insurance companies add staff and banks bring in additional loan officers.

“With revisions to November’s job numbers, we know that New Jersey lost more than 10,000 jobs as a result of Hurricane Sandy, not to mention the widespread devastation it wrecked on our people, infrastructure and economy. December’s report begins to tell a different tale — one that confirms the resilience of New Jerseyans and the speed with which we have begun to emerge from the storm,” Gov. Chris Christie’s administration said in a statement.

The percentage of working-age people in New Jersey with jobs or looking for them continued to rise in December, up to 66.2 percent, the Labor Department reported, several points higher than the national rate. Those figures affect the jobless rate, because the government only counts as unemployed those actively searching for work.

A preliminary analysis shows that from December 2011 to December 2012, employment grew by 48,000 jobs, with the private sector accounting for more than 46,000. The Labor Department said that figure represents the largest over-the-year private sector increase in jobs since December 1999 to December 2000, when more than 64,000 jobs were added.

In a related story, officials say New York’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent in December from 8.3 percent a month earlier. The state labor department says about 34,000 private sector jobs were added during the month. That brings the 2012 total private sector gain to more than 123,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate stood at 7.8 percent upstate compared with 7.9 percent in November. It was at 8.8 percent in the New York City metro area, the same as in November. The December unemployment rate in 2011 was 8.2 in the state.