WASHINGTON — The unemployment rate fell in 45 U.S. states in January, a sign that nearly all of the country is benefiting from an improving economy and job market.
The rate in Washington state, 8.3 percent, was a full percentage point lower than in January 2011, and .3 percentage points lower than December 2011.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that only New York state reported a higher unemployment rate in January than the previous month. Unemployment rates were unchanged in four states.
That’s better than December, when rates fell in 37 states, were unchanged in 10 and rose in three.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent in January from 8.5 percent in the previous month. Employers added 284,000 jobs, the second-highest total in six years.
Hiring has picked up as the economy has improved. Growth accelerated to a 3 percent annual pace in the final three months of last year. That’s better than the 1.8 percent pace in the third quarter.
Nevada had the nation’s highest unemployment rate in January, at 12.7 percent, down from 13 percent in the previous month. California and Rhode Island had the next-highest rates, each with 10.9 percent.
North Dakota reported the lowest jobless rate, at 3.2 percent, followed by Nebraska at 4 percent and South Dakota at 4.2 percent.
Last month, 37 states reported an increase in total jobs, while 13 states said they lost jobs. The figures are different than the unemployment rates because rates can fall even if a state doesn’t add new jobs. Unemployed workers who give up on their job searches, for example, are no longer counted as unemployed, thereby reducing the rate.
Here is each state’s unemployment rate in January, compared with the previous month and a year ago:
State unemployment rates
Figures in percentages