Payrolls increased in 29 U.S. states in March and the jobless rate declined in 30, signs of the uneven improvement in the job market that is concerning some Federal Reserve policy makers.
New York led the nation with a gain of 19,100 workers, followed by California with 18,200, and Arizona with 13,500, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. Mississippi and Oklahoma showed the biggest declines in joblessness, where it dropped 0.6 percentage point.
Earlier this month, Labor Department figures showed that payrolls in the U.S. rose half as much in March as a month earlier. Nontheless, job gains have been enough to shore up household confidence, with more Americans saying their finances are in better shape, according to yesterday’s Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index.
“We’re in a very slow-growing recovery,” Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh, said before the report. “I don’t think in the next three to six months the jobs numbers are going to go down.”
The economy added 120,000 jobs in March, the fewest in five months, after a 240,000 gain in February, the Labor Department said on April 6. Unemployment declined to 8.2 percent, the lowest since January 2009, as Americans left the labor force.
Fed on Labor
Some Fed policy makers have said that growth may not be fast enough to sustain the job creation that has helped push down unemployment.
“Recent labor market data provide an example of the uneven pattern of economic activity,” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President Sandra Pianalto said in an April 16 speech in Lexington, Kentucky. “Monthly ups and downs like these make it hard to confirm the underlying pace of job creation.”
The jobless rate fell to 9 percent in Mississippi and 5.4 percent in Oklahoma, today’s report showed. Unemployment in Nevada remained the highest in the nation even after falling to 12 percent in March from 12.3 percent. It rose to 11.1 percent in Rhode Island, the second-highest in the U.S. California had the third-highest rate at 11 percent.
Twenty-three states reported jobless rates “significantly lower” than the 8.2 percent for the nation as a whole. North Dakota at 3 percent, Nebraska at 4 percent and South Dakota at 4.3 percent have the lowest rates of unemployment in the U.S.
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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