NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - New Jersey should expect to add 48,000 jobs this year, led by the construction and service sectors, as it continues its postrecession recovery, economists at Rutgers University said Wednesday.

While the Garden State's economy has "definitely" come out of the recession, continuing problems in the U.S. and global economies, including rising oil prices, the federal budget deficit, and the housing downturn, will keep the state's comeback modest, said Nancy H. Mantell, director of the Rutgers Economic Advisory Service.

"The economy is really growing this year, but we won't get back to as many jobs as it had at the peak of early 2008 until 2016," she told the semiannual R/ECON conference. "We believe the pace of recovery and expansion in the state, as well as the nation, in this business cycle will remain modest."

New Jersey's unemployment rate has dropped from 9.3 percent last year to currently 9 percent, higher than the national rate of 8.2 percent.

Mantell said New Jersey's unemployment rate should drop to 8.6 percent by the end of 2012, in part because of expected growth in casino employment in South Jersey.

She cited the opening of new casinos in Atlantic City, including the $2.4 billion Revel, as well as others on the drawing board, as fueling job growth for that area.

Mantell forecast that southern New Jersey would record a 1 percent average annual job growth from 2010 to 2021, compared with an average annual decrease of 3.1 percent for the region from 2007 to 2010.

All sectors of New Jersey's economy, except manufacturing and information should record growth, she said in her presentation. She said construction and service jobs will see the most growth.

Despite the downturn, the state has created 74,500 new private-sector jobs since 2010, said Caren S. Franzini, chief executive officer of New Jersey's Economic Development Authority. She said that job growth is the result of Gov. Christie's aggressive courtship of business.

The governor has made job creation a priority of his administration, she said.

"We had to make changes in the regulatory and tax structure to be competitive with other states," said Franzini, who was filling in for Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno who couldn't make it Wednesday due to a family illness. "Incentives are not enough."

Mantell's findings mirrored trends reported monthly by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Contact Suzette Parmley
at 856-779-3844 or sparmley@phillynews.com.