New Jersey added tens of thousands of new private sector jobs last year, but new figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show New Jersey employers sent more workers to the unemployment line in 2011 via "mass layoff."

Last year, employers in New Jersey took 585 mass layoff actions, in which 50 or more initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits were filed against an employer during a five-week period.

Unemployment line

The mass layoffs resulted in the separation of 66,811 workers. The number of unemployment claims rose by 5,413 over 2010, reaching the second-highest total in the history of the series, which dates back to 1996. New Jersey was among one of seven states where the claimant count grew by more than 5,000.

"This is indicating that the (economic) recovery was not getting a lot of momentum in New Jersey in 2011," explained Martin Kohli, Regional Economist for BLS.

He noted the state's unemployment rate (9.3%) remained higher than the national rate (8.9%).

Kohli continued, "It wasn't a good year, and hopefully, in the future, the recovery will gain more momentum in New Jersey."

The summer's Hurricane Irene may have been a factor in the mass layoff spike. Claims jumped in August and September; the hurricane may have resulted in a number of construction projects shutting down.

The transportation and warehousing industry experienced the most mass layoff events in the Garden State last year - 128. Accommodation and food services had the next-highest number of layoff events, but resulted in the largest count of initial claimants.

The all-time worst year for mass layoffs in New Jersey was 2009 when the recession was striking hard. There were 690 mass layoff actions.

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