New federal data indicates the unemployment rate in New Jersey dropped to 7.1 percent in January, the lowest rate in more than five years.

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The statistics also show the jobless rate was significantly lower last year than first thought.

"The unemployment rate was consistently overstated in 2013 -- it was actually a steady decline," said Hal Wirths, commissioner of the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

"To give you an example, in October the unemployment rate in New Jersey was reported at 8.4 and it was actually 7.3 percent," Wirths said. "The UI was actually four months in a row below 8 percent, when it was being reported at over 8 percent."

Wirths also said while unemployment was dropping, private sector job creation was going up.

"A total of 120,000 positions have been created since this time four years ago, including almost 20,000 non-farm jobs last year," Wirths said. "Last year trade, transportation (and) utilities was 11,000 (jobs created); education, health services -- which is private -- was 10,000; leisure and hospitality was 3,700; and professional business services was 23,000 up."

According to Wirths, this past January also brought very positive figures in the construction industry.

"These are preliminary numbers, but construction showed an increase of almost 6,000; professional and business services, which are your higher paying jobs, was up 5,300," Wirths said. "Obviously every day that we put somebody back to work and get them off unemployment, it has a positive impact on New Jersey and the economy."