Preliminary data released last week by the state Department of Labor indicated another rise in New Jersey’s unemployment rate, as well as a loss of 12,000 jobs. The somber news offered Democrats in Trenton a chance to attack Governor Chris Christie’s claim of a “New Jersey Comeback.”

At a press conference in Asbury Park on Monday, the Governor had his chance to defend the comeback and fire a few verbal rounds at the other side of the aisle.

“You’ve never seen a Democrat so excited as you saw them last week when unemployment went up,” Christie told a crowd of reporters and shore visitors. “You couldn’t swing a cat by the tail in New Jersey and not hit an excited Democrat.”

In July, New Jersey’s unemployment rate edged up from 9.6% to 9.8%, a point and a half above the national rate. It marked the state’s 38th consecutive month with an unemployment rate at or above 9%.

Democrats immediately jumped on the bad news.

“There is no way to interpret this other than bad,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

State Senator Barbara Buono added, “The increase in New Jersey’s unemployment rate is further evidence that Governor Christie’s ‘New Jersey Comeback’ is a myth.”

Christie said the poor numbers are likely to be revised “significantly downward” when all July figures are final, and the current estimate should not be seen as “the highest rate in 35 years.”

He continued, “In September, October, November and December of 2009, the unemployment rate was 10% or over based on preliminary numbers. Then they were adjusted down. (July’s number) is not even the highest unemployment rate in the last three years, let alone the last 35 years.”

Defending his “comeback” campaign, the Governor said he picks his words very carefully.

“I have said right from the State of the State Address forward that the New Jersey Comeback has begun – not that the New Jersey Comeback has arrived, not that the New Jersey Comeback has peaked,” he explained. “In nine of the last 11 months, we’ve added private sector jobs.”

“Does that mean that everyone in New Jersey who wants a job has one? Does that mean that there’s not going to be fits and starts that go along with this?” Christie asked. “No, and I never said anything other than that.”

July’s unemployment numbers could be revised as early as next month.


Governor’s Office