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N.J.'s Atlantic County has U.S. biggest metro employment drop in July

Aug 27 (Reuters) - New Jersey's Atlantic County, which includes the struggling gambling mecca of Atlantic City, saw the biggest employment drop of all U.S. metropolitan areas in July compared to the same time last year, according to preliminary U.S. Labor Department data on Wednesday.

Hit hard by casino closures and increasing gambling competition in neighboring states, the New Jersey shore city and surrounding townships combined saw nonfarm payrolls shrink by 3,600 in July year-over-year, or 2.6 percent. That is the biggest decrease in both number and percentage for U.S. metropolitan areas.

The data, which includes government sector employment, is not seasonally adjusted.

The hotel industry accounted for the bulk of the job loss, with employment falling by more than 3,000 over the year, said Bruce Bergman, a Bureau of Labor Statistics economist.

Casino hotels accounted for almost three-quarters of the decline, he said.

By comparison, Nevada's Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, saw its nonfarm employment rise by 25,700, or 3 percent, since last year. Las Vegas is less dependant on its casino industry for overall economic activity than Atlantic City.

Revel Casino Hotel, a shiny new resort touted by Governor Chris Christie as a new model for Atlantic City, is currently in its second bankruptcy since opening in 2012 and will close after the last guest leaves on Sept. 1. By the end of September, four of the city's casinos will have closed this year.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Chris Reese)