WASHINGTON — The unemployment rate fell in two-thirds of U.S. states last month, evidence that recent modest improvements in the job market have benefited most regions of the country.
The Labor Department said that unemployment fell in 37 states in December, rose in three and remained unchanged in 10. That’s similar to November, when joblessness declined in 43 states, and October, when it dropped in 36.
The three states that reported increases were Hawaii, New Mexico and Rhode Island. Nevada posted the highest unemployment rate, at 12.6 percent, followed by California’s 11.1 percent. North Dakota had the lowest rate, at 3.3 percent.
Last month, 25 states reported an increase in total jobs, while 24 states said they lost jobs. The figures are different than the unemployment rates because rates can fall even if a state doesn’t add new jobs. Unemployed workers who give up on their job searches, for example, are no longer counted as unemployed, thereby reducing the rate.
Nationwide, employers added 200,000 jobs in December and the country’s unemployment rate fell for the fourth straight month to 8.5 percent.
Hiring picked up toward the end of 2011 as the economy improved. Analysts expect the economy expanded at an annual rate of about 3 percent in the October-December quarter, up from an anemic 0.9 percent pace in the first six months of last year.
By Associated Press, Published: January 24