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By Caryn Shinske January 5, 2014

Marie Corfield says New Jersey has highest unemployment rate in region, sluggish job growth

Marie Corfield may no longer be a candidate for state office, but that doesn’t mean the Democrat is shying away from important Jersey topics.

Take jobs, for example.

Corfield, a public school teacher who ran unsuccessfully in November for the District 16 Assembly seat against incumbent Republican Donna Simon, criticized the state of jobs in New Jersey in a Dec. 30 column on the Democratic blog

Corfield framed her comments around the departure of the state's comptroller, whom Gov. Chris Christie said was leaving to better support his family. The comptroller's salary was $140,000. Corfield commended the comptroller's accomplishments, adding that the position's salary is a "comfortable" one for a family of four in the Garden State.

Corfield then called out Christie -- "the governor of the state with the highest unemployment rate in the region, stagnant job growth" and a low minimum wage – as pompous, for suggesting that Boxer may have been struggling on such a salary.

For this fact check, though, we’re looking only at the claims about New Jersey’s unemployment rate and job growth.

First, unemployment rates.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists unemployment rates for the nation, each state, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico on its website.

We looked at unemployment rates from November – the most recent data available – to see how New Jersey ranked against Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania.

New Jersey’s rate was the highest among that group, at 7.8 percent. Here are the others:

Connecticut, 7.6 percent; Delaware, 6.5 percent; New York, 7.4 percent; and Pennsylvania, 7.3 percent.
The nation’s unemployment rate for November was 7 percent.

So Corfield is correct that New Jersey’s unemployment rate is the highest in the region.

It’s worth noting that eight states had unemployment rates higher than New Jersey: California, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Rhode Island and Tennessee. Arizona’s rate was the same as New Jersey’s. Also, the states are evenly split between Democratic and Republican leadership.

Now let’s turn to the claim about "stagnant" job growth. Here, Corfield is off base.

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New Jersey’s unemployment rate barely moved downward for the first half of Christie’s first term in office, but experts have told us that the governor doesn’t bare all the blame. The after-effects of the recession had a lot to do with it, too.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has defined the recession as lasting from December 2007 to June 2009. Christie took office in January 2010.

Although New Jersey’s job growth hasn’t been a race to the top of the economic growth heap, the state has gained new private-sector jobs, particularly in the past year, putting it "in the middle of the pack" among other states in terms of job growth, Rutgers University economist Joseph Seneca told us in November.

Seneca’s analysis found that the state gained 60,300 private-sector jobs from August 2012 to August 2013. In addition, New Jersey’s job growth rate of 1.8 percent for that time period exceeded that of New York and Connecticut, both with 1.3 percent growth, and Pennsylvania, which had job growth rates of 0.9 percent, Seneca said.

Seneca told us that much of the state’s job growth during the period he analyzed was in education, health services, leisure and hospitality, trade, transportation and utilities.

It’s important to note that Seneca and the BLS have told us it’s best to measure year-over-year job data that has been seasonally adjusted in order to get the most accurate picture of job growth within a 12-month span.
Using that methodology, New Jersey has increased its number of private-sector jobs by 130,700 from November 2012 to November 2013.

There have been some job losses in recent months, but on the whole, the state is gaining private-sector jobs.

Corfield said she used the same BLS data as us to determine New Jersey’s unemployment rate, and looked at an analysis on that showed the Garden State excels in giving tax incentives but lags in job growth. She also pointed us to a Wall Street Journal article that address New Jersey’s slow job growth.
Further, Corfield said that while she was out campaigning for an Assembly seat, she spoke with many unhappy and unemployed constituents who "are having a tough time finding a job."

Our ruling

Corfield claimed in a recent column that Christie is "the governor of the state with the highest unemployment rate in the region, (and) stagnant job growth."

She’s right that the unemployment rate is the highest in this region, but wrong on whether New Jersey’s job growth has been sluggish.

BLS data shows clearly that while the Garden State’s unemployment rate is the highest among its neighboring states, it’s not the worst in the country. And it’s also clear from BLS data that private-sector jobs are growing in New Jersey.

We rate Corfield’s claim Half True.

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Our Sources

National Governors Association website, Governors Roster 2013, accessed Jan. 2, 2014

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, Unemployment Rates, Seasonally Adjusted, accessed Jan. 2 and 3, 2014, Christie’s last Jersey ‘gift’ of the year, Dec. 30, 2013, accessed Jan. 2, 2014

PolitiFact New Jersey, Chris Christie claims state’s gained 143,000 new private-sector jobs, Nov. 17, 2013, accessed Jan. 2, 2014

Phone interview with Marie Corfield, Jan. 3, 2014, New Jersey’s Tax Incentives Soar as Job Growth Lags Behind, June 2013, accessed Jan. 3, 2014

Wall Street Journal website, N.J. Job Growth Stagnant, Nov. 21, 2013, accessed Jan. 3, 2014

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Marie Corfield says New Jersey has highest unemployment rate in region, sluggish job growth

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