Payrolls increased in 30 states in November, and the unemployment rate dropped in 45, showing the job market improved across much of the U.S. even as superstorm Sandy represented a setback for the Northeast.
North Carolina led the nation with a 30,600 gain in payrolls, followed by Florida with 24,500 more jobs, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. Employment dropped by 33,500 in New York and fell by 8,100 in New Jersey in the wake of storm.
Gains in jobs are helping to sustain consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. At the same time, businesses are unlikely to accelerate hiring while they wait for an agreement among lawmakers to avert more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts slated for 2013.
“Progress in the labor market is slow and steady,” Sam Coffin, an economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, said before the report. “We’ve had some decent payroll growth. Once the fiscal cliff is resolved, there’s potential for faster hiring and income gains.”
The unemployment rate dropped the most in Louisiana, falling 0.8 percentage point to 5.8 percent in November. Nevada’s jobless rate showed the second-biggest decrease, falling to 10.8 percent last month from 11.5 in October. Nonetheless, Nevada remained the state with the highest rate in the country. Rhode Island was second, with a rate of 10.4 percent, followed by California at 9.8 percent.
North Dakota had the lowest unemployment in the nation, holding at 3.1 percent.
The Labor Department said it did not attempt to quantify the job-market damage from Sandy for the states in the affected area.
The storm left about 8 million homes and businesses without power for days after making landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29. The 26 counties designated as major disaster areas after the storm had an average 1,301 labor force participants per square mile, about 30 times the average labor force density for the U.S. in 2011, according to the Labor Department.
Employers nationwide added 146,000 jobs last month, more than the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg and following a revised 138,000 gain in October, Labor Department data showed on Dec. 7. The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent as the labor force shrank.
While the Labor Department said on Dec. 7 that Sandy didn’t “substantively impact” the data, its poll of households showed that 369,000 people were not at work because of bad weather during the survey week. The average of the last 10 Novembers was 70,000 in the survey, which is used to calculate the jobless rate.
While New Jersey showed a drop in payrolls, the state’s jobless rate dropped to 9.6 percent from 9.7 percent in the prior month.
New York’s unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent from 8.7 percent in October.
In addition to New York and New Jersey, Indiana showed a 9,100 decrease in employment last month, the report showed.
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.
The Federal Reserve on Dec. 12 said it will expand stimulus to spur growth. It also for the first time linked its interest-rate outlook to economic thresholds, saying rates will stay low “at least as long” as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent and if it projects inflation of no more than 2.5 percent one or two years in the future. Fed officials don’t see the jobless rate falling near that goal until 2015.