Unemployment Hits 9.6% in Christie's N.J.--4th Worst Among 50 States

By Elizabeth Harrington | July 23, 2012 | 3:11 PM EDT

New Jersey's Republican  Gov. Chris Christie. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

(CNSNews.com) – New Jersey’s 9.6 percent unemployment rate in June ranked fourth from the bottom among all 50 states.

The 9.6 percent unemployment rate in the state was up from 9.2 percent in May and is 1.4 points above the national average unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The monthly increase of 0.4 points (9.2 to 9.6) tied New Jersey with Alabama for what the BLS said were "statistically significant over-the-month" increases for June.

Alabama's unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in June, below the national average. And Alabama ranked 30th nationwide in terms of unemployment rates.

New Jersey is headed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who assumed office in January 2010. Both chambers of the NJ legislature are dominated by Democrats. Alabama is headed by Republican Gov. Robert J. Bentley, who assumed office in January 2011. Both chambers of the Alabama legislature are dominated by Republicans.

New Jersey and Alabama ranked 47th and 48th, respectively, in terms of state GDP in 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis in a June 5 news release. Both states had declining growth last year compared with 2010.  The states with lower GDP in 2011 were Mississippi (ranked 49) and Wyoming (ranked 50).

Currently, New Jersey’s unemployment rate was the fourth highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, only above Nevada with 11.6 percent unemployment; Rhode Island, 10.9 percent; and California, 10.7 percent.

Alabama's Republican Gov. Robert J. Bentley. (AP Photo)

New Jersey’s unemployment rate is also the highest it has been, so far this year, up from 9.0 percent in January. In addition, back in June 2010, New Jersey’s unemployment rate was 9.6 percent and had steadily declined over the last two years but started to go up again in April this year, with a rate of 9.1 percent, according to the BLS.

For New Jersey’s labor force, there were 18,400 more unemployed in June (441,700) than in May (423,300), said the BLS.

Despite the overall increase in unemployed, there were some employment gains: 9,900 more jobs were filled in June.

As New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported, “Preliminary estimates indicate that total nonfarm wage and salary employment in New Jersey advanced in June, up by 9,900 jobs, to a seasonally adjusted 3,914,200, as measured by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) through its monthly employer survey. Gains were registered in both the private (+7,600) and public (+2,300) sectors of the state’s economy.”

“Combined with gains recorded in May, employment in the Garden state has increased by nearly 25,000 jobs over the past two months,” stated a Department of Labor and Workforce Development press release. “This represents the largest two-month gain in over twelve years (Nov. 1999 – Jan. 2000).”

The Department attributed the increase in unemployment to “an influx of new entrants and re-entrants to the state’s labor market.”

“Those previously out of the labor force are only counted as unemployed as they join the labor force and begin to search for work,” the release said.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declined to comment on the news at a Trenton press conference on July 19 just before the numbers were released, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, but his spokesperson Kevin Roberts echoed the positive tone of the Labor Department.

“New Jerseyans understand the trajectory our state is on and believe in the New Jersey comeback,” Roberts said. “They are confidently re-entering the labor market at a level we haven’t seen in well over three years.”

According to the BLS, New Jersey’s unemployment rate has been over 9 percent for three years, since June 2009.  The current rate is only .1 percentage point lower than its peak at 9.7 percent between December 2009 and April 2010.

The five states with the lowest levels of unemployment in June were North Dakota with 2.9 percent; Nebraska, 3.8 percent; South Dakota, 4.3 percent; Oklahoma, 4.7 percent; and Vermont, 4.7 percent.

Michael W. Chapman contributed to this report.