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NJ jobless rate falls to 9.3 percent in February

Angela Delli Santi, Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey's jobless rate dropped by two-tenths to 9.3 percent in February, according to preliminary figures released Thursday.

The state Labor Department reported that employers added 12,900 workers to their payrolls for the month. Higher employment levels were recorded in both the private and public sectors.

The state unemployment rate, however, remained well above the federal rate, which fell by one-tenth to 7.7 percent in February.

Adjusted figures show New Jersey's unemployment rate has not been below 9 percent since May 2009, when Democrat Jon Corzine was governor and Republican Chris Christie was campaigning to unseat him.

Charles Steindel, chief economist for now-Gov. Christie, touted the most recent report as further evidence that jobs are being created in the state.

"This is another solid jobs report that continues the general, upward trend of growth and progress established under the Christie administration, bringing the number of private-sector jobs added under this administration to 120,000," Steindel said.

But Sen. Barbara Buono, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said the report illustrates New Jersey's continuing unemployment crisis. She said the 430,000 jobless residents represent "an unacceptably high number," and blamed Christie for vetoing a bipartisan jobs-creation package.

"The governor has vetoed legislation that would have created good-paying jobs across the state without offering any plan of his own," she said.

One of the vetoed bills was sponsored by Buono, and would have encouraged partnerships between New Jersey-based pharmaceutical companies and other industries and colleges and universities.

Job gains were posted in education and health services, information, and leisure and hospitality, among other sectors. Job losses were reported in trade, transportation and utilities, financial activities, construction and manufacturing.

Public-sector employment gained 5,800 positions, with federal, state and local governments all showing gains.

January's jobs numbers were revised downward to show a loss of 2,200 jobs from December to January.