Payrolls increased in 42 states in February and the jobless rate declined in 29, signs of broad- based improvement in the job market.
Ohio led the nation with a gain of 28,300 workers, followed by Texas with 27,900, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The biggest drop in unemployment was in Mississippi, where the jobless rate fell 0.5 percentage point to 9.5 percent.
The report follows a four-year low last week in claims for unemployment benefits and new strength in consumer confidence, indicating the labor-market recovery is helping sustain demand. Employment increased by more than 200,000 workers in February for a third consecutive month, giving Americans the means to boost spending, which makes up 70 percent of the economy.
“The labor market is steadily, if slowly, strengthening,” said Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics LLC in Danville, California. “Another month of 200,000-plus payroll employment in March is likely.”
The economy created a net 227,000 jobs in February, capping the strongest six-month payroll gain since 2006, according to figures from the Labor Department released earlier this month. The jobless rate held at 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years.
Nevada remained the state with the highest jobless rate in the nation, even after showing the second-biggest decrease in unemployment. Its rate fell to 12.3 percent from 12.7 percent in January, today’s report showed. Rhode Island was next at 11 percent, followed by California at 10.9 percent.
Over the past year, the jobless rate dropped the most in Michigan, going from 10.7 percent in February 2011 to 8.8 percent last month.
North Dakota, with joblessness at 3.1 percent, remained the state with the lowest rate of unemployment.
New York registered the third-biggest gain in payrolls last month, showing a 24,700 increase.
State and local employment data are derived independently from the national statistics, which are typically released on the first Friday of every month. The state figures are subject to larger sampling errors because they come from smaller surveys, making the national figures more reliable, according to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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