From the Record:
New Jersey’s unemployment rate in December fell to its lowest level since six months into the recession, as New Jersey added 13,300 jobs for an annual total of 65,200 – the highest figure in 15 years.
The state added 12,500 private-sector jobs and 800 government jobs in December, according to the monthly employment report by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The jobless rate fell from 5.4 percent in November to 5.1 percent – a level the state has not seen since June 2008. New Jersey’s rate, which was for a long time far higher than the nation’s, is now only a tenth of a point above the national rate of 5 percent.
The state has now recovered just over 80 percent of the 258,000 jobs lost as a result of the recession.
James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, called it a “strong report.”
He noted that the jobless rate fell because people found jobs, rather than because they left the work force, as has happened in the past. He also welcomed the growth in the labor force – the number of people who either have a job or are looking for one.
“The unemployment rate went down for good reason,” he said. “The fact that the labor force is growing indicates that people are starting to sense that there are available jobs out there, and they are returning to the labor force.”
The report also revised the November figures, reducing the previously announced gain of 7,900 jobs to an increase of 4,800.
The full year figures showed that the state in 2015 gained the most jobs in the education and health services sector, the trade, transportation and utilities sector and the construction sector. All of the major sectors added jobs over the year.
“With these gains and with the unemployment rate hitting the lowest levels since before the recession, the Garden State begins the New Year on a very strong economic foundation,” said James Wooster, chief economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury.