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N.J. Jobless Rate Climbs First Time Since December

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey’s unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent in July, the first monthly increase since December as municipalities cut payrolls to balance budgets.

Employers shed 21,200 positions last month, pushing the jobless rate up 0.1 percentage point, the state labor department said today in a statement. Unemployment was 9.6 percent in June, down from a recession-high 10 percent in December, while the national figure was 9.5 percent last month.

New Jersey’s unemployment rate climbed amid the longest U.S. recession since the Great Depression. Federal offices, local governments and school districts reported a loss of 18,100 jobs last month in the state, while commercial employment dropped by 3,100 positions, the labor department said.

“It’s not entirely unexpected to see incremental movements in either direction as the national economy seeks its footing,” Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Governor Chris Christie, said in a statement. “We must press on with the governor’s policies to provide business incentives and reduced taxes, all of which will aid in our return to consistent job growth in New Jersey.”

The government job losses followed Christie’s decision to cut $1.2 billion in funding to public schools and municipalities in his $29.4 billion budget for the year that began July 1. Counties, cities and schools cut 14,700 positions from their payrolls, the labor department said.

Fired, Retiring Teachers

The New Jersey Education Association, the statewide teachers union, said 7,000 of its members decided to retire before the school year begins and 3,000 have been fired.

“It’s really not looking good right now,” Steve Wollmer, a union spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

Total non-farm employment was 3,841,900 in New Jersey last month, the labor department said. The state said it revised June job losses to 5,600 from an initial estimate of 1,900.

Five of 10 industries lost jobs, led by professional and business services with a decline of 2,300 and construction down 1,700. The miscellaneous services category, which includes auto repair, laundering and professional organizations, added 2,500 jobs for the biggest gain, the labor department said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.

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