WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment rates fell in four-fifths of US 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 said on Tuesday that 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 national 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 searching for jobs.
Several states saw their unemployment rates fall sharply. Yet most of the drops occurred because more job-seekers gave up. New Jersey’s unemployment rate fell to 7.3 percent from 7.8 percent in November.
But the state also said that employers cut 36,300 jobs in December. The unemployment rate fell because about 26,000 of those out of work stopped looking.