New Jersey's unemployment rate has dropped a bit early this fall as more residents of the state have left the labor force, continuing a trend that has prevailed since summer.

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Preliminary October data released Thursday by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show the number of people with jobs dropped slightly as the unemployment rate was 8.4 percent -- about 1 percentage point above the August national figure of 7.3 percent.

Thursday's are the first state-level jobs data released in two months because the federal government shutdown in October caused a reporting delay.

The unemployment rate for September was also estimated at 8.4 percent, down from 8.5 percent in August.

The number of people holding nonfarm jobs in October was 3.96 million, down 5,500 from the month before but 55,500 more than October 2012. The biggest gains in jobs came in the professional and business services and transit, transportation and utilities industry. The state lost jobs in a number of sectors, including education and health care.

Employment rose a bit in September, the data shows. Revised numbers for August show that employment was up slightly that month rather than down slightly.

The number of residents employed or seeking work has been declining for a year.

Economists at a state forum on Wednesday said that New Jersey started adding job seekers in late 2010, just as more people began dropping out of the labor market nationwide. Economists are not sure why that happened. If not for that divergence, they say the New Jersey and U.S. unemployment rates would be nearly identical.


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