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New Jersey Worse Off at End of Decade Than Start, Study Says

New Jersey had fewer jobs and more people living in poverty at the end of 2010 than in 2000, according to a study from a group that favors tax increases to benefit people of low or moderate means.

Employment fell to 3.85 million last year from 3.99 million in 2000, while the jobless rate jumped to 9.5 percent from 3.7 percent, according to the study released today by New Jersey Policy Perspective, based in Trenton. The national rate climbed to 9.5 percent from 4 percent in that period, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

New Jersey’s weak economic recovery was cited by all three major credit-rating companies that each lowered the state’s bond ranking by one level this year. Poverty will continue to rise in the state unless it expands the minimum wage, earned income tax credit, unemployment and health insurance, child care assistance and paid family leave programs, the group said.

“Working people in New Jersey already know how bad the economy is for their families,” Deborah Howlett, president of the policy organization, said in a statement accompanying the report. “They feel it in their gut when they scrape together a mortgage payment.”

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Governor Chris Christie, declined to comment on the report.

State Taxes

Christie, 49, a first-term Republican, has pushed to reduce the cost of New Jersey government. He vetoed higher income taxes for residents earning at least $1 million, capped increases in local real-estate levies, and required public workers to pay more for pensions and health care. The governor said in October that New Jersey has added 45,000 private-sector jobs since he took office in January 2010.

The loss of state and local government workers is the main reason for New Jersey jobs declining over the past year, the policy group’s report said. From June 2010 to June 2011, 41 states had job growth, while employment in New Jersey continued to decline, it said.

New Jersey’s economy was ranked the third-worst performing among U.S. states in the year through June 30, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index, which uses data on employment, income, real estate, taxes and local stocks to track the direction of state economies.

Median household income in New Jersey, adjusted for inflation, was little changed in the decade at $63,540 in 2010, from $63,818 in 2000, according to the study.

People living in poverty rose by almost a quarter-million to 10.3 percent in 2010 from 7.8 percent, according to the study, which drew on figures from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Census defined 2010 poverty as annual income of $22,314 for a U.S. family of four.

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