In this Jan. 22, 2014, photo, job seekers sign in before meeting prospective employers during a career fair at a hotel in Dallas. The government reports on state unemployment rates for December on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. (LM Otero / AP)
Washington — Unemployment rates fell in four-fifths of U.S. states in December and rose in just two, though most of the improvement stemmed from unemployed Americans giving up on their job searches.
The Labor Department says employers in 30 states added jobs, the fewest to report gains since August. Nineteen states reported job losses.
Nationwide, employers added just 74,000 jobs last month, the fewest in three years and much lower than the average of 214,000 in the previous four months. Economists attributed some of the slowdown to cold weather.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest in more than five years. But the decline occurred mostly because more people stopped looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively looking for work.