Job seeker Bill Hare, 57, of Wildwood, at the Wildwood One-Stop Career Center on Thursday: “I think it will pick up during Christmas. I’m upbeat. You’ve got to be.”

Staff photo by Dale Gerhard

WILDWOOD — The flagging New Jersey economy was not far from the minds of unemployed workers Thursday at the Wildwood One-Stop Career Center.

Here, dozens of job-seekers filled introductory classes on employment applications, effective interviewing and job-searching. As soon as one group finished, the center’s lecturer began with a new one.

Judging from state job numbers released Thursday, the center and others like it across South Jersey could be busy places this winter.

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New Jersey’s unemployment rate dipped an insignificant amount in September, in contrast to bigger improvements seen in other parts of the country.

The rate dipped from 9.9 percent in August to 9.8 percent in September, according to numbers released Thursday by the state Department of Labor.

The state added 1,100 jobs in September, bring job creation to 41,600 overall in 2012.

The national unemployment rate fell in September from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September.

The state numbers are adjusted to account for seasonal variations such as those of the shore economy. Cape May County and other parts of South Jersey see seasonal jobs disappear at the end of summer.

Unemployment remained in double digits in August in Cumberland (14.4 percent), Cape May (14.1 percent) and Atlantic counties (13.1 percent), in data seasonally adjusted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The county rates for September will be released later this month.

Many of the workers looking for jobs Thursday had been laid off from retail stores, restaurants and Boardwalk shops after Labor Day.

Bill Hare, 57, of Wildwood, recently lost his summer job at a Boardwalk arcade. He came to the One-Stop center to complete an online job application form but had little experience using a personal computer. One of the employees took his place at the keyboard and helped him fill in his references and resume.

Hare served in the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz from 1982 to 1986. He has experience working at bars and restaurants in Cape May County. But he said he won’t be picky about his next job.

“I’m looking for any place that will take an old man,” he joked. “I think it will pick up during Christmas. I’m upbeat. You’ve got to be.”

While private sector employment rose by 1,100 jobs, the public sector shed 2,300 jobs.

The industries that saw the biggest September gains were information services, education and health care. Meanwhile, construction saw the state’s largest decline in jobs in September.

“The report today is encouraging in one way,” said Joseph J. Seneca, an economics professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

“We had a gain in private sector jobs of 1,100. The unemployment rate inched down slightly,” he said. “The weakness of the summer has stabilized. Maybe the state is poised to have accelerated jobs growth in the months to come.”

Seneca said the state showed signs of improvement in the first half of the year before job growth ebbed over the summer.

“Over summer, we were basically treading water,” he said. “The rest of the year will tell us if that was just a pause before job growth resumes or whether the last few months indicate stagnation to come.”

Charles Steindel, chief economist for the state Department of Treasury, noted that New Jersey’s labor force participation rate — which includes people who are actively looking for a job — remains above the national average.

“While New Jersey’s job market in September still showed the effect of the summer doldrums in the national figures these last few months, there are positive signs,” he said in a statement.

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