Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigns with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., right, in Exeter, N.H. earlier this year. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
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Using new data that indicates New Jersey’s economy may be getting worse, Gov. Christie’s political opponents are seeking to bloody him up before he heads down to the Republican convention to deliver the keynote speech.
The state Department of Labor reported today that the preliminary unemployment rate has inched up to 9.8 percent in July, up from 9.6 percent the previous month. If those numbers hold – they are sometimes adjusted up or down when new data comes in – they would represent the highest monthly rate since April 1977, according to state records.
The figure is also higher than the national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent. The state said 12,000 jobs were lost, mostly in the private sector.
As the Republicans’ keynote speaker at their national convention in Tampa at the end of the month, Christie is expected to tout his success turning around the New Jersey economy while arguing that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the candidate best able to put Americans back to work. Christie has been using the term “New Jersey comeback” for months now to tout his success in New Jersey, and Romney recently began calling himself and running-mate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan “America’s comeback team.”
Christie is on vacation at the Jersey Shore this week, but his office reiterated that the figures are preliminary and only represent one month. Overall, the state is experiencing job growth, according to a spokesman, with positive job numbers having been reported in nine of the last 11 months. Since February 2010, the first full month of Christie's term, 79,000 private sector jobs were added.
In other economic news released yesterday, revenue for the month of July was 3 percent higher than in 2011. That was portrayed as a positive -- but far below the 7 percent annual revenue increase that the governor is banking on to support a proposed income tax cut.
Democrats pounced on the job figures today in a flurry of statements.
"There is no way to interpret this other than bad," said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester). "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. What I want to see is this administration admit it is failing in terms of getting people back to work."
And the Democratic state chairman, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D., Middlesex), said: "Governor Christie talks about telling direct and hard truths when he gets to Tampa. Well, here’s a direct and hard truth, Mr. Governor: New Jersey voters don’t care about whether our governor is famous and popular with his party, they care about having a job and providing for themselves and their families. Stop caring more about your personal reputation and political successes than you do about the people of New Jersey.”