Wisniewski rips administration over jobless rate, touts Buono as point person on minimum wage hike effort

TRENTON – Democratic state committee chairman Assemblyman John Wisniewski today criticized the Christie administration over the state’s continued high unemployment rate.

Also, he tied Sen. Barbara Buono’s gubernatorial campaign to the effort to win voter support for the referendum to hike the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25.

After blaming Gov. Chris Christie for policies that have led to New Jersey’s jobless rate remaining fourth highest in the nation, at 9.5 percent, Wisniewski said that the governor’s offer of a wage hike that would have amounted to 25 cents this year was an insult.

Christie had vetoed a minimum wage hike bill that would have lifted the hourly wage to $8.50, and offered instead a $1 hike phased in over several years. The ballot referendum facing voters this year is a $1 hike with cost of living provisions included.

“We have a candidate who can get this done,” Wisniewski said. “Barbara Buono will lead the fight to pass a ballot measure to give the people the opportunity to say what the minimum wage will be.”

He pointed out that New Jersey’s jobless rate is 2 points higher than the national average, and said more than 400,000 in the state can’t find work.

By contrast, the administration says the more important numbers being reported are not the jobless rate, but the actual figures of increased private-sector hiring.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics had recently revised total non-farm employment gains for 2012 upward by 18,400 jobs, from 48,000 to 66,400 jobs, the state Labor Department reported this past week. BLS said those were the highest gains in more than a decade.

However, Wisniewski pointed out today that New Jersey is struggling through its worst sustained jobless rate period in about 35 years.

And he issued a reminder of remarks Christie made in February 2011 that when nearby Connecticut raised taxes, New Jersey would be waiting to welcome those jobs.

“We haven’t seen that happen,’’ Wisniewski said. “Those were empty words.”

Wisniewski rips administration over jobless rate, touts Buono as point person on minimum wage hike effort