The State Department of Labor and Workforce Development's latest unemployment figures show the rate rose in July from 9.6% to 9.8%. This marks the 38th consecutive month that the Garden State's jobless rate has been at or above 9%.

Unemployment Office

The last time the rate was higher than it is now was April of 1977 when it was 9.9%. Brendan Byrne was Jersey's Governor, Reggie Jackson was settling in as a Yankee and no one knew the Summer of Sam was approaching in New York City.

Labor commissioner Hal Wirth says in July, "There was a loss of 12,000 jobs. 7,000 were in the private sector and 5,000 were in the public sector…..There are about 450,000 people unemployed right now in the State of New Jersey……We're discouraged to have one bad month like this, but it is one month and they are preliminary numbers."

Democrats were quick to capitalize on the bad news. State Senate President Steve Sweeney says, "There is no way to interpret this other than bad. I don't want to hear any spin. I don't want to hear anything remotely close to painting this as good news. I don't want a press conference touting these numbers as if it's a 'mission accomplished' moment…The 'Jersey Comeback' is possible if this administration would either get out of the way or come up with an actual idea. If they won't do either, we will simply step up as we have had to do in the past."

Democratic State Committee chairman John Wisniewski says, "New Jersey's unemployment continues to rise, going from 9.6 to 9.8 percent. It illustrates once again where the Governor's priorities lie. He has spent the last month, and many months before it, putting his personal ambitions ahead of the needs of our state. At this point, it seems like Christie is Governor in Name Only... just like Mitt Romney wants to claim that he was CEO in name only for his last three years at Bain. New Jersey deserves better."

"The increase in New Jersey's unemployment rate from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent is further evidence that Governor Christie's 'New Jersey Comeback' is a myth," says State Senator Barbara Buono. "While Christie could argue last month that the number of actual jobs was up, that's not the case today: New Jersey actually lost 12,000 jobs in the month of July, and our unemployment rate is now 1.5 points above the national average of 8.3 percent."

Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald says, "With unemployment reaching 9.8 percent in July, it's clear that Chris Christie's 'Jersey Comeback' is as elusive as Mitt Romney's tax returns. Then again, since he's spent so much time out of state campaigning for Governor Romney lately, perhaps he hasn't noticed that the only people feeling a 'Comeback' under Christie are the millionaires and billionaires enjoying massive tax breaks."

"The national economy has been sluggish and, realistically, we can't be exempt," explains Charles Steindel, Chief Economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury. "Given the national softness and the strength of our job gains in May and June some fallback was likely."

Overall, private sector employers in the Garden State have added 79,000 jobs since February 2010, which was the low point of private sector employment during the recession. Over the past 12 months total nonfarm employment in New Jersey has increased by 40,200 jobs.

Job loss in July was registered in both the private (-7,100) and public (-4,900) sectors of the state's economy. Wirths says, "Almost 25,000 jobs were created in May and June and now we might be paying the price for those two good months."

Wirths urges any New Jerseyan seeking work to go to On average the site as roughly 250,000 job openings every month.

Steindel says, "New Jersey's labor force participation rate and the percentage of our population who are employed remain above the national averages. Considering we have seen job growth in 9 out of the past 11 months, we anticipate that job growth should resume and start to put some downward pressure on unemployment."

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM