From the Record:
Optimism that New Jersey’s economy is on the rebound took a beating Thursday with the release of figures showing the state lost 8,600 jobs in March, the first decline since August.
The state lost 11,600 private sector jobs, the most since the recession ended in June 2009, while adding 3,000 government jobs, according to the monthly jobs report by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Unemployment stayed at 9 percent, well above the national rate of 8.2 percent.
The sudden darkening of the state’s economic picture caught economists off guard, and raised questions about Governor Christie’s claim that the state is on a “comeback” fueled by strong private sector growth that will help balance the state budget by boosting tax revenue.
“This was a kind of a shocker,” said James Hughes, a Rutgers University economist. “This is really a break in trend. Hopefully, it’s a one month blip on the long term trend.”
Further bad news came in revised figures for February that showed the state added 7,000 jobs, not 8,700.
“Today’s job report for New Jersey was just plain ugly,” Rutgers economist Joseph Seneca said. “Almost all the private sector employment gains of the first two months were wiped out, leaving the state with a net gain of only 3,500 jobs for the year.”
The figures followed a prediction Wednesday by another Rutgers economist, Nancy Mantell, that the state’s economic recovery is lagging the nation’s, and that New Jersey would not recover all the jobs lost in the recession until mid-2016.