New Jersey Jobless Rate Increases to 35-Year High of 9.8%

New Jersey’s unemployment rate jumped to a 35-year high of 9.8 percent in July, the state Labor Department said.

The rate climbed from 9.6 percent in June and is above the national level of 8.3 percent, which also increased last month. New Jersey lost 12,000 jobs in July, with the largest drops in manufacturing, construction, and professional and business services, the department said in a statement today.

“The national economy has been sluggish, and, realistically, we can’t be exempt,” Charles Steindel, chief economist for the state Treasury Department, said in the statement. “Considering we have seen job growth in nine out of the past 11 months, we anticipate that job growth should resume and start to put some downward pressure on unemployment.”

Governor Chris Christie, a first-term Republican, has said New Jersey’s economy is in a comeback and the state can afford tax reductions and higher spending. Democrats, who control the Legislature, have refused to approve his tax-cut proposal until they have proof that revenue will meet his budgeted forecasts.

“One month doesn’t make a trend,” Kevin Roberts, a Christie spokesman, said today in an e-mail. “Over the long term, we’re experiencing positive job growth in New Jersey.”

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has been 9 percent or higher since mid-2009. It reached a recessionary high of 9.7 percent. The last time it was 9.8 percent or higher was in April 1977, according to Labor Department data.

The July numbers released today are preliminary estimates and can change once more thorough surveys have been conducted, said Brian Murray, spokesman for the Labor Department. For example, the preliminary unemployment rate for December 2009 was 10.1 percent. It was later revised to 9.7 percent.

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