- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey’s unemployment rate rose a tick in August to 6.6 percent as more people looked for work and the number of people with jobs dropped slightly.

The state Labor Department released its preliminary monthly report Thursday.

The report finds that employment decreased in construction, trade, transportation and utilities and the public sector. There were gains in jobs in manufacturing, education and health services and business and professional services.

Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that the report does not indicate that the state’s economy is heading in the wrong direction, because it’s a small increase in the unemployment rate following a period of sharp declines.

Since August 2013, the state’s unemployment rate fell by 1.5 percentage points as 40,000 more people got jobs and nearly 33,000 left the labor force.

The unemployment rate could jump in coming months because of three Atlantic City casino closings this month.

New Jersey’s unemployment rate remains above the national rate of 6.1 percent.

The unemployment data came out the same day as a U.S Census report that finds New Jersey was one of just three states in the nation in which the poverty rate rose from 2012 to 2013.

That report found that 11.4 percent of New Jersey residents were in poverty last year, up from 10.8 percent a year before. The poverty rate was still below the national figure of 15.8 percent.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Christie said he believes Superstorm Sandy, which struck in October 2012, was a major factor in the rise in poverty.

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