N.J. jobless rate inches up slightly

New Jersey’s unemployment rate moved a bit higher last month.Preliminary data shows the jobless rate rose a 10th of point to 7.2 percent in March as the state lost 1,300 jobs.

Job growth in the last three months has been flat as brutal weather affected some industries, said state Labor Commissioner Hal Wirths.

“I think you’ll start seeing some pickup coming in with the break in the weather,” he said Thursday. “And you have a lot of large construction projects that have started.”

But the director of economic research at the accounting and consulting firm CohnReznik is skeptical warmer weather will bring significant job gains.

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“We should have anticipated that in March because March was in terms of weather a better month than we have seen in the previous three months and yet the employment level just stood still,” said Patrick O’Keefe.

Applications for unemployment insurance benefits have dropped to pre-recession levels, but O’Keefe said that may be because of fewer layoffs and not a signal that job growth is accelerating.

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