The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its December data Thursday, showing New Jersey with a 7.3 percent unemployment rate -- a 1.1 percent drop since October 2013.
With the dramatic drop, New Jersey’s rate fell more in line with the region -- New York’s unemployment rate is 7.1 percent -- but it still significantly lags the national rate of 6.3 percent.
Even though the unemployment rate dropped in December, so did overall employment.
The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development noted that non-farm employment in the state contracted by 36,300 jobs -- 33,200 in the private sector. Significant numbers of jobs were lost in the leisure and hospitality sector (-8,000), education and health services (-6,900), construction (-6,500), transportation and utilities (-5,400), and manufacturing (-2,500).
Gordon MacInnes, president of the left-leaning New Jersey Policy Perspective, released a statement noting that the reason the unemployment rate dropped was because 26,100 New Jerseyans gave up looking for work. MacInnes said that New Jersey has only regained 44 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession, while New York and other states have regained over 100 percent.
MacInnes noted that this dropout of the labor force occurred before Congress refused to renew extended unemployment benefits. Lack of unemployment benefits, he said, is expected to drive even more jobless folks out of the labor force entirely.
"The bottom line is that New Jersey’s economic prospects are far from rosy," he said.