Aircraft practice against the Atlantic City skyline, Tuesday Aug. 16, 2016, for the Atlantic City Airshow on Wednesday. (Michael Ein/Staff Photographer)

A Stockton University report released Tuesday says that workers continue leaving the Atlantic County labor force, part of a continuing trend as the region sheds casino jobs.

Total employment in the county also declined very slightly in the first half of this year — although those people moving away or leaving the workforce  have kept the official unemployment rate lower than it would be otherwise.

In the county as a whole, total employment dropped by 350 jobs, or 0.3 percent, in the first half of 2016 from the same period last year, according to the latest edition of Stockton’s twice-yearly South Jersey Economic Review.

But the study found that Atlantic City’s casinos now provide 20 percent fewer jobs than they did at the start of 2014.

About 13,000 workers have left the labor force since early 2013 as local jobs disappeared, “a 9.4 percent contraction ... that has kept its official headline unemployment rate relatively low,” the analysts found. Not all those people moved away from Atlantic County; some retired or stopped looking for jobs.

As of June 2016, Atlantic County had an official unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, the state’s second-highest, according to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Atlantic was behind only neighboring Cumberland County that month, when the state’s overall unemployment rate was 5.3 percent.

“Atlantic City’s economy continues to struggle under the weight of the ongoing restructuring taking place in its gaming industry and the related spillover effects on the local economy, including Atlantic City’s fiscal health,” according to the Summer 2016 edition of the SJER, edited by Oliver Cooke, a Stockton economics professor.

“While most current gaming operators have benefited (in market share terms) from the industry’s recent consolidation ... the restructuring process remains incomplete,” according to the report, which Cooke issues in conjunction with Stockton’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy.

And those casino job losses of the last 2 1/2 years don’t yet take into account the announced closing of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in October, the authors added. Taj Mahal officials reported to the state that a shutdown there will cut almost 2,850 more jobs out of the city.

The analysis also found that over the first six months of 2016, Atlantic County lost 2,400 jobs in construction, accommodations and local government.

But during that same period, the county added 600 jobs each in the fields of retail and education/health care. The area also added another 900 jobs in the “restaurants and bars sectors,” the analysts found.

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