New Jersey's unemployment rate rose to 7.2 percent in March, the first increase since July 2012, according to preliminary estimates released by the state Labor Department Thursday.

Nonfarm employment fell by 1,300 jobs, with losses in government as well as in professional and business services, information, manufacturing, and construction, data show.

The jobless rate was up from 7.1 percent in February, though down from 8.7 percent in March 2013.

New Jersey has regained 121,400 private jobs since the recession's low point in February 2010 - about half of those lost.

Neighboring New York state, which gained back all of the jobs it shed in the slump by 2012, also saw its unemployment rate climb by 0.1 percentage point to 6.9 percent in March as its labor force grew.

"We continue to anticipate that job growth should kick into higher gear," Charles Steindel, chief economist for the New Jersey Treasury Department, said in a statement.

A positive development, Steindel said, was that the number of unemployment claims received in recent weeks was among the lowest in several years.

The national jobless rate in March was 6.7 percent.