The December job growth came across all major private industry sectors. Construction added 4,300 at a time of year when employment in that industry would normally be dropping. The economists said that's linked to early post-Sandy rebuilding efforts.
Hughes also said some of the 2,300 additional financial sector jobs are related to storm recovery as insurance companies add staff and banks bring in additional loan officers.
Charles Steindel, chief economist for the state's Treasury Department, said the job growth came for a few reasons: December is usually a big hiring month because of holiday shopping and on top of that, Sandy suppressed hiring in November, when the economy was otherwise primed for growth.
"There was a normalization," he said. "People who weren't hired in November were hired in December."The percentage of working-age people in New Jersey with jobs or looking for them continued to rise in December, up to 66.2 percent, the Labor Department reported, several points higher than the national rate. Those figures affect the jobless rate, because the government only counts as unemployed those actively searching for work. Steindel said that New Jersey's unemployment rate is artificially high because of the number of job-seekers. A preliminary analysis shows that from December 2011 to December 2012, employment grew by 48,000 jobs, with the private sector accounting for more than 46,000. The Labor Department said that figure represents the largest over-the-year private sector increase in jobs since December 1999 to December 2000, when more than 64,000 jobs were added. It will not be clear until March whether the major one-month growth can be sustained. The Labor Department does not release a monthly report in February.