New Jersey added 17,600 jobs in May, its biggest employment gain in more than seven years, as governments filled seasonal positions and a new casino opened.
The unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, one percentage point above the U.S. level, as the state labor force expanded, Governor Chris Christie told reporters in Trenton. New Jersey accounted for one-fourth of all U.S. jobs added in May, he said.
Christie, a 49-year-old Republican who faces re-election in 2013, said the growth supports his “Jersey Comeback,” a turnaround that he said will allow the state to raise spending while reducing income taxes 10 percent over three years. Some Democratic lawmakers have questioned whether the state can afford a tax cut as revenue falls short of the projections in Christie’s $32.1 billion budget proposal.
“What the folks down the hall, the Democrats, don’t understand is that New Jersey is optimistic again,” Christie said. “People who’ve not been looking for jobs for months, and some of them years, are now entering the labor force to try and find jobs. They believe the New Jersey Comeback is under way. We’re back on track.”
Democrats control both houses of the Legislature. The governor and lawmakers face a July 1 deadline to pass a balanced spending plan.
Casinos, Summer Jobs
Summer hiring by local and state governments accounted for the bulk of 4,700 public jobs created in New Jersey in May, or more than a quarter of the new positions, according to Labor Department data.
Nongovernment employers added 12,900 jobs. More than three- fourths of that gain came from the leisure and hospitality industries, boosted in part by hiring at the $2.4 billion Revel casino and hotel. The resort opened on April 2 after Christie gave the developers a $261 million tax break to help restart construction.
“The governor has had a laser focus on job creation since his first day in office,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, a Westfield Republican, said in an interview at the Statehouse.
New Jersey’s unemployment rate has been 9 percent or higher since June 2009. May marked the second-straight monthly increase, from 9.1 percent in April and 9 percent in March.
The biggest decline in jobs last month occurred in financial services, with 4,800 positions cut. Losses were also reported in construction and manufacturing.
Overall, the state has added jobs in eight of the last nine months, according to the Labor Department. May’s figures show the need to cut taxes to continue the momentum of job creation, Christie and Kean said.
“Certainly the creation of jobs is good news for New Jersey, but the fact is that New Jersey lags behind the nation,” Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski, a Sayreville Democrat, said at the Statehouse. “This is all about getting talking points.”
May’s employment growth was the largest since April 2005, when New Jersey added about 18,000 jobs, Christie said. A third of all jobs lost under former Governor Jon Corzine, a one-term Democrat, have been regained, according to Christie.
“The New Jersey Comeback is very much a reality as much as the Democrats want to try and root against it for their own purposes,” Christie said. “We cannot change course now.”
Senator Paul Sarlo, a Democrat who heads his chamber’s Budget Committee, said yesterday that legislative leaders have agreed on a spending plan. He said his committee will vote on the budget on June 21 and that he expects it to go before the full Senate on June 25.
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