N.J. jobs picture brightens a bit

Hurricane Sandy is being blamed for most of the job losses in New Jersey last month, but it’s not as bad as officials expected.

The Garden State lost 8,100 jobs in November with the biggest declines in the leisure and hospitality industry.

Labor Commissioner Hal Wirths said Thursday he’s surprised the storm didn’t push the number even higher.

“I’m still a little pessimistic about next month’s numbers, that they may be catch up because November was our biggest month of initial claims ever in the history of New Jersey,” he said. “We had over 138,000 claims filed, mostly due to Hurricane Sandy.”

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The state’s unemployment rate fell slightly to 9.6 percent, the third straight monthly drop.

Revised numbers show there were just 1,000 jobs lost in October, not the more than 11,000 originally estimated.

Wirths expects hiring in the construction industry to rebuild from Sandy will help boost employment in coming months.

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