- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Revised federal data released Monday suggests New Jersey’s unemployment rate declined more gradually last year than previously reported.

The report using numbers collected by the federal government was issued by the state Labor Department. It also shows the state’s unemployment rate for January was 7.1 percent, the lowest it has been since December 2008.

Monthly reports showed the state’s unemployment rate declining by more than 1 percentage point from October to December, as people stopped looking for work. Those figures raised questions at the time, as they showed residents quickly getting out of the workforce a year after the number of residents looking for work had abruptly spiked. The new figures suggest the number of job-seekers has changed more slowly.

The annual benchmarking of the data shows the unemployment rate decline was less dramatic, as the rate consistently dropped by one- or two-tenths of a percentage point each month throughout 2013.

The revised numbers show more job growth in the state last year than reported in the monthly updates. But there were more than twice as many private-sector jobs created in 2012 as the 19,000 added in 2013.

The benchmarked figures have made the state’s unemployment picture look less dramatic in the past, too. Last year’s revision showed unemployment peaked in 2012 at 9.6 percent, not 9.9 percent contained in the monthly report at the time.

The monthly report for January that was released Monday along with the revised 2013 data showed the year was off to a slow start as there were 10,500 fewer jobs and 17,000 fewer residents in the labor market.