Payrolls rose in 40 states in April and the unemployment rate fell in 23 as the U.S. labor market picked up following a soft patch a month earlier.
California led the nation with a 29,500 increase in employment, followed by a 27,000 advance in Pennsylvania, figures from the Labor Department showed Wednesday in Washington.
Job growth found its footing again after faltering in March, a sign recent weakness in other economic data including retail sales and consumer sentiment may be short-lived. More hiring that leads to bigger wage gains would help brighten the prospects for stronger household spending.
“We continue to see some pretty broad improvement in the labor market and indications that job growth is still pretty strong,” said Sarah House, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We’re seeing some tightening that should help boost wage growth.”
Nevada showed the biggest percentage gain in employment with a 1 percent increase, followed by Alaska at 0.9 percent. Among the nine states where payrolls fell, the largest percentage declines were in New Hampshire and Wyoming.
The unemployment rate dropped the most in Indiana and Washington state, where joblessness fell 0.4 percentage point. West Virginia was one of two states that showed a statistically significant increase in unemployment.
Nebraska had the lowest jobless rate in the U.S. at 2.5 percent in April. Nevada had the highest at 7.1 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 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The national report showed payrolls across the U.S. climbed by 223,000 in April following an 85,000 gain that was the weakest since June 2012. The unemployment rate fell to an almost seven-year low of 5.4 percent.
Other barometers of the job market are also pointing to reduced slack. The four-week average for initial jobless claims decreased to 266,250 in the period ended May 16, the lowest level in 15 years, Labor Department data showed last week.
Meanwhile, more employees quit their jobs in March than at any time since 2006, and the number of people hired climbed to 5.07 million, the most this year, according to a report earlier this month.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues are focused on labor market measures as they consider the right time to increase interest rates for the first time sine 2006.
Although the labor market is nearing full strength, “we are not there yet,” Yellen said Friday in a speech in Providence, Rhode Island, emphasizing that the Fed will proceed “cautiously.” If the economy continues to improve as she expects, “it will be appropriate at some point this year” to start raising rates, she said.