Payrolls Increased in 36 U.S. States in May, Led by Texas

Photographer: Ben Torres/Bloomberg

A job seeker, left, shakes hands with a company representative during a job fair hosted by JobExpo.com in Dallas. Close

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Photographer: Ben Torres/Bloomberg

A job seeker, left, shakes hands with a company representative during a job fair hosted by JobExpo.com in Dallas.

Payrolls climbed in 36 U.S. states in May and the unemployment rate fell in 20, showing the labor market continued to strengthen across the nation.

Texas led gainers with a 56,400 increase in employment, followed by Pennsylvania with 24,700 more jobs, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington.

Headcounts are climbing as business confidence and sales improve and the economy rebounds from its worst performance in three years. Employment in the U.S. reached a milestone last month as payrolls pushed past their pre-recession peak for the first time, while fewer firings are also helping put more Americans at ease about spending.

“The labor market is continuing to improve, and it’s been pretty good the last few months in terms of the pace,” said Sarah House, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte. “We do think that we’ll continue to see improvement in the second half of 2014.”

Illinois and Massachusetts were among states showing the biggest decreases in their jobless rates last month, with each declining by 0.4 percentage point, today’s report showed.

Rhode Island had the highest jobless rate in the country at 8.2 percent. North Dakota had the lowest at 2.6 percent.

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, thus making the national figures more reliable, according to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Payrolls Rising

In today’s report, states showing gains in employment also included New York, with a 23,400 increase. The biggest percentage increases in payrolls were registered by West Virginia, Maine and Delaware.

Employment dropped the most in Florida and Arizona.

The data on state jobs is consistent with a report earlier this month that showed U.S. payrolls climbed 217,000 in May, after a 282,000 gain in April. It marked the fourth consecutive month employment increased by more than 200,000, the first time that’s happened since early 2000. The jobless rate held at an almost six-year low of 6.3 percent.

Improvement in cities remains gradual, with tight labor markets in some metros pushing wages higher and job opportunities scarce in others. Some 118, or 32 percent, of the 372 metro areas reported jobless rates below 5 percent in April, Labor Department figures show. At the same time, 14 areas had jobless rates of at least the October 2009 post-recession peak of 10 percent.

Lowest Unemployment

Midland, Texas, had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.3 percent, while Yuma, Arizona, had the largest year-over-year unemployment rate decrease in April, with joblessness falling 3 percentage points. The Yuma area also had the highest unemployment rate in April at 23.8 percent.

Fed policy makers said this week that the economy is showing signs of picking up and the job market is improving. The Federal Open Market Committee pared its monthly asset-buying to $35 billion, its fifth straight $10 billion cut, keeping it on pace to end the program late this year.

The policy-making FOMC repeated that it’s likely to “reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps” and that it expects rates to stay low for a “considerable time” after the bond-buying ends.

“Economic activity is rebounding in the current quarter and will continue to expand at a moderate pace thereafter,” Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said at a press conference in Washington on June 18 following the FOMC’s meeting. Even with declines in unemployment, “a broader assessment of indicators suggests that underutilization in the labor market remains significant.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Stilwell in Washington at vstilwell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Carlos Torres at ctorres2@bloomberg.net

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