Nonfarm wage and salary employment increased by 14,600 in New Jersey in July, the seventh consecutive month of job gains in the state at that level, according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Thursday.

However, the statewide unemployment rate increased by a tenth of a point over June's revised number to 7.3%, which Dr. Charles Steindel, the state's former chief economist, said in an analysis for the Garden State Initiative is nearly two points higher than the national figure of 5.4%.

"You'd like to see better progress on the unemployment front," Steindel said. "That's disappointing. We wish we had better numbers on unemployment."

While private-sector gains were plentiful, the public sector lost 6,500 jobs, a drop that is usually expected after the end of the school year, but which was larger than usual this time around.

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"You pare down that odd loss of government jobs, it wasn't a bad gain. But the unemployment rate, that was certainly a disappointment," Steindel said.

Steindel called this report a "mixed bag" overall, saying that while the July numbers indicated a continued rebound, it would be nice if that bounce-back was going faster.

But something that the state did not mention upfront in its release could help shepherd that recovery along.

"There was information released by the National Bureau of Labor Statistics which suggests that we have actually been undercounting jobs in New Jersey by about 50,000," Steindel said.

And what factoring in those numbers might do is put New Jersey on track to recover all of its jobs lost in the COVID-19 pandemic sometime in 2022, rather than a more dire scenario of early 2023.

That is, of course, assuming the coronavirus does not eventually cause another major shutdown of commerce in the state.

Thursday's report adds back 441,700 jobs over the last 17 months, about 62% of the pre-pandemic level.

That still leaves a long way to go to revert back to what the New Jersey employment picture was in February 2020, Steindel said.

"275,000 jobs, even if we say that there's 50,000 that aren't counted, we're still talking well over 200,000," he said. "That's a lot."

Seven out of the nine major private sectors in New Jersey gained jobs in July: professional and business services (+6,900), trade, transportation and utilities (+6,100), construction (+4,000), "other" services (+2,100), leisure and hospitality (+1,300), manufacturing (+1,100), and education and health care (+400).

Financial activities (-700) and information (-100) lost jobs, according to the state.

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