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New Jersey’s jobs picture is improving so much that the state’s steadily declining unemployment rate is the lowest its been since before Gov. Chris Christie took office.
That’s one of several jobs claims the Republican governor made Tuesday during his State of the State address in Trenton.
"Today, our unemployment rate is 7.8 percent. That is the lowest in five years," the governor said before touting gains in private-sector job growth that the Truth-O-Meter has previously rated as True and Mostly True.
Although New Jersey’s unemployment stagnated in the mid-to-high 9-percent range for the better part of Christie’s first term, the governor’s claim is not entirely accurate.
First, we’ll look at the state’s unemployment rate by reviewing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Both agencies note that New Jersey’s unemployment rate as of November – the most recent month for which data is available – was 7.8 percent. So Christie’s figure is correct.
To put that rate in context, it’s the highest in a region that also includes New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware. Eight other states, however, had an even higher unemployment rate in November than New Jersey.
Still, New Jersey’s unemployment rate has been declining steadily since for the past year. The rate, which had been stuck in the 9 percent range from June 2009 through March 2013, finally dipped below 8 percent in November.
Getting back to Christie’s claim, we went back exactly five years from the November 2013 unemployment rate to review data from November 2008, onward, to fit his cited timeframe.
We found that New Jersey’s unemployment rate was 6.5 percent in November 2008, 7 percent in December 2008, and 7.4 percent in January 2009 – lower than the current 7.8 percent.
So Christie’s claim is off a bit – the state’s unemployment rate has been lower within the past five years than the current rate of 7.8 percent.
But Christie’s claim is accurate beyond those three months. The state’s unemployment rate jumped to 7.9 percent in February 2009 and continued climbing until it topped out at 9.7 percent that December. The rate stayed that high until April 2010, when it began a slow downward trend.
New Jersey’s unemployment rate finally dipped below 9 percent in April 2013 and below 8 percent in November.
Christie spokesman Colin Reed said in an email that the administration expects to have a new unemployment data report this week.
Christie said during his State of the State address, "Today, our unemployment rate is 7.8 percent. That is the lowest in five years."
Federal and state labor data confirm that New Jersey’s unemployment rate is 7.8 percent as of November 2013, the most recent month for which data is available.
Although New Jersey’s unemployment rate has exceeded 9 percent for much of Christie’s tenure, the fact is that federal and state data both confirm that the unemployment rate was lower than 7.8 percent for the first three months of Christie’s five-year timeframe.
We rate the governor’s claim Mostly True.
To comment on this story, go to NJ.com.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website, Local Area Unemployment Statistics Database, accessed Jan. 15 and 16, 2014
New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development website, New Jersey Unemployment Rate Plunges to 7.8 Percent November Jobs Surge by 16,900, accessed Jan. 15, 2014
New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development website, NJ Monthly Seasonally Adjusted Estimates: 1976-2013, Dec. 19, 2013, accessed Jan. 15, 2014
PolitiFact New Jersey, Marie Corfield says New Jersey has highest unemployment rate in region, sluggish job growth, Jan. 5, 2014, accessed Jan. 15, 2014
Email interview with Colin Reed, Gov. Chris Christie spokesman, Jan. 15, 2014
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