When it comes to freedom, New Jersey comes in ahead of only California and New York according to a new study.   

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The study by George Mason University calculates its Freedom Scale ranking based on dozens of policies affecting taxes, regulations, tort liability, property rights and a host of personal choices involving alcohol, tobacco, gun rights, marriage rights, gambling and education.

“This isn’t surprising to small business owners in New Jersey,” said National Federation of Independent (NFIB) Business State Director Laurie Ehlbeck.

“The politicians and bureaucrats at every level have their fingers in virtually every commercial and personal activity in New Jersey.”

According to the report, New Jersey has dropped 37 points on the economic freedom scale since 2001 and also scores a staggering 78.8 points below average (versus 32.9 points below average in 2001).

Are New Jersey Residents Surprised?

“None of this will come as a shock to long-suffering New Jersey taxpayers, yet it’s still another stark reminder of how unbridled big government destroys prosperity and undermines our quality of life,” said Mike Proto, Americans for Prosperity Foundation - New Jersey’s communications director. “Perhaps the most stunning news in this report is how quickly and precipitously the state has sunk in the span of just ten years.”

The report was released Thursday before unemployment figures were released by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development showing overall employment increased by 12,900 jobs in February. The 7,100 private-sector jobs created in February come on the heels of a strong December employment increase that pushed New Jersey’s job creation figures for 2012 to nearly 52,000 private-sector jobs.

Jersey's jobless rate dropped by two-tenths to 9.3 percent in February, but remains well above the federal rate, which fell by one-tenth to 7.7 percent.