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WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment rates fell in two-thirds of U.S. states last month, evidence that modest economic growth is boosting hiring in most areas of the country.And in many states, unemployment has fallen well below the national average, which was 8.1 per cent last month. Rates were lower than 7 per cent in 22 states in April. That compares to only 13 states in April 2011.
The labour Department said Friday that unemployment rates dropped in 37 states in April, the most in three months. Unemployment rose in 5 states and was unchanged in eight.
Nationally, the unemployment rate has fallen a full percentage point since August. Employers have added a million jobs over the past five months, although the pace of hiring slowed in March and April.
The national rate has also declined because some people gave up looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively looking for a job.
The states with the lowest rates continue to be in the upper Midwest with small populations. North Dakota’s rate was 3 per cent in April, the lowest in the country. It was followed by Nebraska at 3.9 per cent and South Dakota at 4.3 per cent.
Still, unemployment is also relatively low in some large states, such as Minnesota and Virginia. Both had 5.6 per cent unemployment rates in April.
The rate has fallen by a full percentage in Minnesota during past 12 months. In Virginia, it has dropped half a point in that timeframe.
Texas — the nation’s second-largest state — also has low unemployment. The rate dropped to 6.9 per cent last month, down from 8 per cent a year ago. Texas has added almost 250,000 jobs in the past year, the most in the nation.
The rate was 5 per cent in Oklahoma, 5.1 per cent in Iowa, 5 per cent in New Hampshire, and 6.3 per cent in Massachusetts.
Many of those states have seen job gains. Iowa added 5,800 jobs in April, while Nebraska gained 3,800. Indiana added the most jobs of any state last month, with 17,100.
Overall, 32 states added jobs in April, the department said.
Still, other states continue to struggle.
Nevada reported the highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 11.7 per cent. Rhode Island was next at 11.2 per cent, followed by California at 10.9 per cent.