New Jersey’s unemployment dips to 5.1%, nearing national rate

Job growth in New Jersey has been picking up, and the state’s unemployment rate is now only slightly above the national average.

Private sector employers in New Jersey added 12,500 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent, getting close to the 5 percent national rate.

That is good progress, said state Labor Commissioner Hal Wirths.

“I always look at the trends, and the last five months have been just been tremendous job growth and a steady drop in the unemployment rate,” Wirths said Thursday. “At the same time, the labor force participation rate going up is a very, very good sign. I don’t know if we’ll be able to keep up this amount of jobs per month, but I do expect that the positive trends continue.”

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New Jersey’s economy added 64,500 jobs in the past year, the strongest private sector job growth in 15 years, he said.

That growth is occurring throughout the region, said Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at the accounting and tax advisory firm CohnReznick.

“We see in both the New York and Pennsylvania markets growth,” he said. “I think the Northeast is just getting better now than it had been earlier in the recovery.”

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