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New Jersey’s Unemployment Rate Dropped in August to 9.4%

New Jersey’s unemployment rate declined by 0.1 percentage point to 9.4 percent in August, the first drop this year.

Employment fell by 7,100 jobs, largely because of a labor strike affecting 7,000 Verizon Communications Inc. employees who have returned to work, the state’s Labor Department said in a statement today. New Jersey’s jobless rate exceeds the national level, which has held steady at 9.1 percent since July.

New Jersey has added 15,300 jobs over the past year, bringing the total to 3.9 million as of August. Private-sector payrolls have expanded, as government jobs have declined. Governor Chris Christie, a first-term Republican, said last month that state finances had bottomed out and were beginning to rebound, helped by private-sector employment gains.

“While our numbers reflect the softening of the national economy and were impacted by a significant labor dispute, this year’s uptrend in employment is still quite evident,” Charles Steindel, chief economist for New Jersey’s Treasury Department, said in the statement. “The move down in the unemployment rate in August, small as it was, also was welcome news.”

The unemployment rate is a measure of jobs held by state residents, while total employment includes all jobs based in New Jersey.

Employment at businesses fell by 11,300 in August from July, as government jobs climbed 4,200 amid a seasonal increase in education positions, the department said. Accounting for the return of the striking workers, companies shed 4,300 jobs.

Fitch Ratings cited weak economic recovery last month in cutting its rating on New Jersey’s general-obligation debt one step to AA-. Moody’s Investors Service in April cut its rating one level to Aa3, while Standard & Poor’s cut its grade one level to AA- in February. All three ratings are the fourth-highest investment grade.

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