N.J. jobless rate dips slightly; public-sector rolls grow at local level

TRENTON – In a development that defied the trend of previous months, the state saw job growth in the public sector and lost jobs in the private sector last month, according to state Labor Department data.

New Jersey’s unemployment rate slipped 0.1 percent to 9 percent and added 2,400 jobs in the public sector, mostly at the local government level, in December, according to figures released Thursday by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. However, private-sector employment was lower by 2,000. That brought the month’s net job growth to 400 jobs.

It wasn’t immediately known why there was so much growth at the local government level.

However, Bill Dressel, executive director of the state League of Municipalities, believes it may have something to do with rehiring of police officers after this year’s Transitional Aid was approved by the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie. He pointed out though that public sector jobs shrunk overally by 3,000 last year.

“The numbers show that 2011 was the best year for private-sector job growth since the year 2000.  We still have a long way to go to get back close to full employment, but it’s evident we are going in the right direction,” said economist Charles Steindel of the state Department of Treasury.

Over the past year, private-sector employment increased by 39,400 jobs.

The job growth occurred in the professional and business services (+1,500), other services (+1,300), and education and health services (+300). Job losses occurred in trade, transportation and utilities (-4,100), construction (-2,800), manufacturing (-200) and leisure and hospitality (-100).

N.J. jobless rate dips slightly; public-sector rolls grow at local level