TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- The state Labor and Workforce Development Department (LWD) says New Jersey lost 400 jobs in December, but the unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent from 6.4 percent in November.

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The department says 2014 marked the fifth straight year of job growth for the state's private sector, which added almost 152,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate has fallen 1 percentage point since December 2013 and is down 3.5 percentage points from December 2009. That was the highest unemployment rate for the state during the Great Recession.

"It's a good indication that things are going in the right direction," said LWD Commissioner Hal Wirths.

The department says the education, health and business service sectors added jobs in December while the hospitality, financial and transportation industries lost jobs. Manufacturing was unchanged.

Wirths said the hospitality sector lost ground in December due in part to Atlantic City casino misfortunes. "We are still dealing with the folks in Atlantic City hitting our unemployment numbers."

The report comes after Republican Gov. Chris Christie highlighted the falling rate in his State of the State and as he weighs a White House run.

The state's unemployment rate still lags the national rate of 5.6 percent.

The data comes from a monthly survey of about 5,000 businesses conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

Joe Cutter contributed to this report.

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