New Jersey's unemployment rate dipped to 8.5 percent in August, down from 8.6 percent the previous month. It's the lowest level since March 2009.

NJ Dept of Labor building in Trenton (NJ Dept of Labor & Workforce Development)

But the state Labor Department reports the state lost 1,500 jobs last month, following a decline of 10,700 jobs in July, according to revised estimates.

The unemployment rate fell even as the state lost jobs because a greater number -- more than 12,000 from July to August -- left the labor force.

In August, more people went to work in education and health services and leisure and travel, among other sectors. Professional and business services scaled back the most.

Since February 2010 -- the low point for New Jersey jobs during the Great Recession -- the state's private sector has added 142,000 jobs, though employment remains below pre-recession levels.

The jobless rate has fallen by more than a full percentage point since August 2012.

However, it remains more than a percentage point above the national rate, which was pegged last month at 7.3 percent.

"Considering we're looking at the lowest unemployment rate since March 2009 and we saw vigorous job growth last fall, we are hopeful we will see a repeat," Charles Steindel, chief economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury, said in a statement.

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