Economy creates 288,000 jobs in June; Dow breaks 17,000 on news

President Obama hailed the growth in jobs during a speech Thursday on the economy at a business incubator in Washington.

The economy created a whopping 288,000 jobs in June, and in celebration, the Dow Jones industrial average surpassed 17,000 for the first time.

Friday's report from the U.S. Labor Department "puts a smile on the face of all economists who . . . are forecasting strong economic growth in the second half of the year," said Doug Handler, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight.

The unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent in June, from 6.3 percent in May and 7.5 percent a year ago.

As good as the news is - with broad-based hiring in all sectors - it hasn't entirely translated locally.

Nationally, payrolls have made up for the jobs lost during the recession, but Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are still behind, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Labor Department.

New Jersey lags furthest behind, by 147,300 jobs, and in June earned the dubious distinction of having the most layoff announcements of any state, according to a job-cuts announcement compiled by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago employment company.

Challenger's June report, also issued Thursday, had a good news headline - 31,434 job cuts announced in June, the fewest this year.

Of those jobs, however, 7,624 were in New Jersey, compared with 1,358 in Pennsylvania.

Contributing to Jersey's grim statistics was June's announcement that 2,100 jobs would be lost when Atlantic City's Showboat casino closes in August.

"There is clearly systemic change that is going on in terms of where employers want to be located," said Jon Whiten, deputy director of New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Whiten said Jersey's jobs generators had been located in sprawling suburban office parks, but companies no longer want that kind of isolation and younger employees prefer urban settings.

Besides the faltering casino business, New Jersey's economy also has relied on employment in financial and pharmaceutical companies, which have struggled, partly due to the recession and partly due to changing business trends.

"There's more biotech but it doesn't provide as many jobs as Big Pharma did," said public policy professor Carl Van Horn, who heads the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

"Some of [New Jersey's] strengths became liabilities because of some of the particular effects of the recession. We've been slower to recover," he said.

Despite the situation in New Jersey, the overall trend is improving, said Joe Weinlick, vice president of, the King of Prussia-based operator of online job boards.

"The vibe is very positive," Weinlick said. Employers who had been talking about hiring are now actually filling vacant positions, he said.

Particularly revealing to him is that there are increased openings in administration and management. Stressed companies eliminate mid-managers and administrative help, and rebounding companies, he said, need those workers.

Fifteen of the 288,000 jobs created occurred at Vertex Inc., of Berwyn, a tax technology and software company - and one of those hires tells the story.

Tia Leonard began June 23 as Vertex's new director of recruiting. Her first task? To fill 50 open positions to bring Vertex to 900 employees.

"We're growing like crazy," said Michael DeThomas, chief executive of Trigon Technology Group in Chesterbrook. The company added 40 positions since the start of the year, including two in June, and there are a dozen openings.

The Vertex and Trigon jobs are in technology, but the June report showed growth in every sector: construction, manufacturing, government, financial services, business services, health and retail.

June's 288,000 jobs would have been a recent record, except that the Labor Department also revised its April number up to 304,000, from 282,000 and its May number from 217,000 to 224,000.

Job growth has topped 200,000 a month since February.

"We just got a jobs report today showing that we've now seen the fastest job growth in the United States in the first half of the year since 1999," President Obama said in a speech Thursday at a Washington business incubator.

"What we also know is, as much progress as has been made, there are still folks out there who are struggling," he added.

Nearly 9.5 million people remained unemployed in June, the Labor Department reported, with nearly a third of them, about 3.1 million, unemployed for more than six months.