By Christopher Rugaber Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Solid hiring helped lower unemployment rates in 40 U.S. states last month, the most since November. The declines show the job market is improving throughout most of the country.
The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates increased in only three states: Louisiana, Tennessee and North Dakota. Rates were unchanged in seven states.
California, New York and South Carolina all reported the largest unemployment rate declines in April. Each state’s rate fell by 0.4 percentage points.
The report said 30 states added jobs in April, while 18 reported fewer jobs.
Nationwide, employers added 165,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 7.5 percent. The economy has added an average of 208,000 jobs a month since November. That’s up from only 138,000 a month in the previous six months.
Unemployment is declining in many states because the housing industry is creating jobs again. Rates have also declined because many of the unemployed have stopped looking for work. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively seeking jobs.
Texas has created 41,500 construction jobs in the past year. That’s helped the state be the nation’s leader in job growth over the past year. The state added 33,100 jobs last month and 326,100 jobs over the past 12 months.
Texas’ unemployment rate stayed at 6.4 percent in April compared with March, but has fallen from 7 percent a year ago.
New York gained 25,300 jobs in April — second most among the states — and 111,600 jobs in the past year. The job gains in April helped pushed the state’s unemployment rate down to 7.8 percent from 8.2 percent in March. Some of the decline was also because people stopped looking for work.
Florida added 17,000 jobs in April and 119,100 in the past year. More than half of April’s job gains were in construction. The state has gained 15,500 construction positions in the past year. Jobs in trade, transportation and utilities have grown by more than 40,000 in the past year. The category includes retail jobs.
Nevada had the highest unemployment rate last month, at 9.6 percent. But it also had the biggest decline of any state over the past year, falling from 10.7 percent. Part of that decline is because many people have given up on their job hunts. But the state has also gained 22,700 jobs in the last 12 months.
North Dakota reported the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, at 3.3 percent. The state has benefited from an oil and gas drilling boom.