TRENTON – Employers in New Jersey added 17,800 jobs in March, helping push the state’s unemployment rate down by 0.4 percentage points to 4.2%.

Eight of the nine major private industry sectors recorded gains, all except for information, according to monthly data issued Thursday by the state labor department. The top increases were 4,900 in leisure and hospitality, 4,300 in professional and business services and 4,200 in trade, transportation and utilities.

New Jersey’s economy has gained jobs in 16 straight months. It has added back 679,400 jobs in the last 23 months, since bottoming out in April 2020 when lockdowns were being imposed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

That amounts to 92.7% of the 732,600 jobs lost in March and April of 2020, a rate slightly ahead of the 91.5% of lost jobs that have been recovered nationally.

State-by-state data will be released by federal government Friday. As of one month ago, when New Jersey had regained 89.9% of the jobs lost through the initial February report, the state’s recovery rate ranked 21st highest among the 50 states.

The February jobs numbers were increased to show an increase of 29,200, which is 3,300 more than originally estimated.

At a New Jersey Chamber of Commerce conference in Atlantic City, where the focus was on strategizing on ways to push the state to become more hospitable to businesses, Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday said “New Jersey has a good story to tell” that includes the nation’s ninth-highest rate of economic growth in the second half of 2021, an annualized rate of 5.4%. It was 7.4% in the fourth quarter.

“This growth becomes even more impressive given that it came against the headwinds of national inflationary pressures, huge mental health stress and learning, and the onset of the Omicron tsunami, any one of which could have stopped our forward motion,” Murphy said.

Former state chief economist Charles Steindel, who analyzes the monthly jobs reports for the Garden State Initiative, noted that the unemployment rate remains higher than the nation’s 3.6% rate. He also noted the labor force dropped by 4,000 to its lowest level since November 2020.

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“This is in contrast to recent reasonably strong increases in the nation’s labor force,” Steindel said. “The difference with the nation is due to more than slower population growth here: our labor force participation rate has been dropping, while the nation’s has been rising. At this time, it is very hard to understand the slackness in New Jersey’s labor force participation, especially in light of the strong job environment.”

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NJ county fairs make a comeback: Check out the schedule for 2022

UPDATED 4/10: A current list of county fairs happening across the Garden State for 2022. From rides, food, animals, and hot air balloons, each county fair has something unique to offer.

(Fairs are listed in geographical order from South NJ to North NJ)

These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

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