The good news is 30,900 private sector jobs were created last month in the Garden State. The bad news is the unemployment rate only ticked down a tenth of one percent - from 9.7 to 9.6 percent. So what's going on?

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Jersey Labor Commissioner Hal Wirths says the way the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a bit surprising, because they base it on the labor participation rate.

"Which is made up of people either working or actively looking for a job - when folks get discouraged and they say you know what, I'm discouraged, I'm done, I'm not looking - that will actually drive the unemployment rate down - it's the extreme opposite of what most people would think."

Thousands Join the Active Job Market

He says the latest data shows, "Our labor participation rate went up to 66.2 percent. We have tens of thousands of people joining the labor market…We have them feeling good about their chances of getting a job - and this last year was the best job creation year to year in a decade…46 thousand private sector jobs were created from December 2011 to December 2012 and that's the biggest increase in over a decade."

Wirths adds after Sandy we had a lot of people file for unemployment benefits.

"I think it's worked its way through the system - in November we had a record amount of initial claims - of 138 thousand - but the new initial claims have returned to normal."

He also points out it's encouraging that "All nine job (industrial) sectors, we had positive gains - that a first since I've been Commissioner and I think what it shows are the Governor's policies are working…Trade and transportation was up 6 thousand, education and health was up 56 hundred, the real bright star was construction - it was up again 4 thousand three hundred, professional business services - which are your highest paying jobs was up 4 thousand, leisure and hospitality,even with the closure of a lot of areas that were hit the hardest from Sandy was up 33 hundred…manufacturing was up 3 thousand, financial activities was up 23 hundred - so it was a very, very encouraging report…I honestly believe the worst is behind us."

Governor Christie says he found the situation mystifying.

"We added 30 thousand new private sector jobs," said Christie, "The greatest private sector job growth month since they've been keeping statistics and we went down a tenth of one percent …I have no idea what the unemployment rate means, and I suspect the people who do it have no idea what the unemployment rate means because I don't know how you can add more jobs in a month - and those are by the way, verified numbers. The unemployment rate is based on a poll, so I don't know what to make of it. All I can tell you is this - 30 thousand jobs in one month, pretty good month."

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, issued a statement saying, "Last January, Governor Chris Christie proclaimed in his State of the State address that the 'Jersey Comeback,' had begun, at a time when New Jersey had an unemployment rate of 9.1%. But throughout 2012, we experienced the Jersey Setback, as New Jersey's unemployment rate rose to a record 9.9% while the national unemployment rate continued to fall. Today, with New Jersey's unemployment rate still at 9.6%, New Jersey's unemployed workers are still wondering when this so-called 'Jersey Comeback' was scheduled to start."