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Jobless rates fell in 21 states in June, rose in 12

Christopher S. Rugaber
Associated Press

Washington — Unemployment rates fell last month in 21 U.S. states and were unchanged in 17, as widespread job growth and a shrinking workforce reduce the ranks of those out of work.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that unemployment rates rose in 12 states. Employers added jobs in 31 states and cut them in 17, with little change in the remaining two states.

The figures reflect steady hiring nationwide. Employers added 223,000 jobs in June, and the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent from 5.5 percent. Yet last month’s rate decline occurred because some of the unemployed gave up looking for work. The jobless aren’t counted as unemployed unless they are actively searching for work.

Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate, at 2.6 percent, while West Virginia has the highest, at 7.4 percent. New York gained 25,500 jobs last month, the most of any state, followed by 23,000 in California and 16,000 in Texas.

The figures reflect widespread improvement in the nation’s job market. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in the Midwest, from 5.1 percent in May, and 5.3 percent in the South, from 5.4 percent. Unemployment in the Northeast declined to 5.4 percent from 5.6 percent. Only the West reported an unchanged rate, at 5.8 percent.

Unemployment rates in 31 states are now at 5.5 percent or below, a range that the Federal Reserve considers full health. That suggests employers will have to pay higher wages to attract workers, given the dwindling supply of unemployed.

Nationwide, the proportion of adults in the workforce — defined as those with jobs or looking for work — declined last month to the lowest level in 38 years, the government’s jobs report, released earlier this month, showed. Just 62.6 percent of people 16 and over are in the workforce, the government said.

That’s down from 66 percent when the recession began. About half of that decline has occurred because of the increasing retirement of the baby boom generation, economists calculate. Some has occurred because younger people are more likely to be in school. But unemployed workers who have given up on their job hunts are also a big reason.

Yet steady hiring has also helped. Employers have added nearly 3 million jobs in the past year.