March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Payrolls grew in 34 U.S. states in January, a month before employment gains accelerated nationally.
Michigan led with a 26,500 hiring increase, followed by Washington with 24,100, according to figures from the Labor Department today in Washington. The jobless rate climbed in 25 states and fell in eight.
Broad-based progress in employment even amid fiscal policy changes indicates the consumer spending that makes up about 70 percent of the economy may continue to help sustain the expansion. Payrolls grew by 236,000 workers in February, almost twice the 119,000 increase a month earlier, figures from the Labor Department showed earlier this month.
“We’re making a little bit of progress,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, said before the report. Stanley is the second-best forecaster of the national unemployment rate for the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “The pace of layoffs seems to have abated somewhat from where it was six months ago” while hiring is “starting to get a little bit of improvement,” he said.
Massachusetts showed the third-biggest increase in employment for January, with a 16,100 gain.
Illinois and Mississippi showed the biggest increases in their jobless rate for the month, each rising by 0.4 percentage point. California and Rhode Island had the highest unemployment rates in the nation at 9.8 percent.
Colorado and Vermont were the only two states that showed significant declines in joblessness.
North Dakota had the lowest unemployment in the nation with a reading of 3.3 percent, which was up from the prior month’s 3.2 percent.
Louisiana showed the biggest loss in hiring, as employment dropped by 12,500. Wisconsin registered a 6,000 decrease and Missouri had a 4,700 drop.
Nationally, the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in February, a four-year low, from 7.9 percent in the prior month, a Labor Department report showed earlier this month. The February state data are due on March 29.
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.
Federal Reserve officials have said they are waiting for “substantial” improvement in the labor market before they put the brakes on unprecedented monetary easing measures. The policy makers have pledged to keep their benchmark lending rate near zero as long as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent and inflation is projected to be no more than 2.5 percent. They also said during a January meeting they would keep buying $40 billion per month in mortgage bonds and $45 billion in Treasuries.
“Consistent with the moderate pace of economic growth, conditions in the labor market have been improving gradually,” Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told lawmakers Feb. 26 during his semiannual testimony on monetary policy.
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