TRENTON – Job gains in New Jersey slowed considerably though continued in May, according to monthly estimates from the federal labor department announced by the state Thursday.

Nonfarm employment climbed by 6,700 jobs last month, after eight months in which gains averaged around 18,500. It was the 18th consecutive month of jobs gains in New Jersey, though the third smallest monthly increase in that year and a half.

Six major private sectors added jobs in May, headed by gains of 2,600 in financial activities, 2,600 in education and health services and 2,000 in leisure and hospitality. Three sectors lost jobs: Down 1,300 in construction, 1,300 in manufacturing and 100 in trade, transportation and utilities.

The state’s economy has now regained 96% of the jobs lost amid shutdowns ordered in the first two months of the pandemic in the spring of 2020 – 703,300 added, after 732,600 were lost.

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More than 17% of the jobs in the state were zapped in March and April of 2020.

The unemployment rate in May declined to 3.9%, down 0.2 percentage points from the April level. Importantly, the rate fell even as the labor force increased by 14,600 workers, as the number of people reporting they were unemployed dropped by 7,700 to 181,700.

A separate weekly report on unemployment claims shows the number of initial claims for benefits in last week rose in New Jersey by 935 to 6,318.

The total number of people getting unemployment checks in the week ending June 4 was 73,184, according to the advance data. That was 6,817 more than a week earlier, the biggest jump in the nation and the most in the state in seven weeks.

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