Maybe Gov. Chris Christie's much ballyhooed "Jersey Comeback" claim has some merit.

Tim Larsen, Governor's Office

The man many consider to be the top economist in the Garden State is offering some evidence that the comeback might be real or at least the state is trending that way.

"In 2012, New Jersey ranked 8th among the 50 states in terms of absolute private-sector job growth," says James Hughes, the dean at the Rutgers Bloustein School. "Only New York, which ranked 5th was ahead of us in the northeast. We are way ahead of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania (and) Connecticut."

The Garden State sputtered out of the post-recession gate in 2010 says Hughes, but the state has turned thing around.

"Ever since that very slow start in 2010, each year we've gained further momentum and job growth has gotten better each year," explains Hughes. "2012 really started a positive trajectory for the state economy."

The slow start in 2010 can be blamed on the deep downturn the state experienced during the recession according to Hughes. He thinks business confidence was at a low particularly in regard to a lot of the policies that had been formulated in the 2002-2009 era.

"We seem to be on the same pace as 2012 so, as it stands now we probably have one of the better outlooks we've had over the past 12 or 13 years," says Hughes.

Democrats say things are not so rosy. They're also tired of being called "Corzine Democrats" by Christie. The Governor and several Republican lawmakers have lately taken to using that label to tie Democrats to the unpopular former Governor Jon Corzine. State Senator Barbara Buono, the Democratic challenger to Christie this year is also challenging the Governor's record.

"To hear Governor Christie tell it, everything in New Jersey's going just fine," says Buono in her first TV ad. "Well I see another New Jersey, with 400,000 unemployed - one of the worst jobless rates in the country. Working and middle class families have seen costs soar - from property taxes to college tuition."