Unemployment dropped in 37 U.S. states in December, pointing to broad-based improvement in the job market as the economy picks up.
Alabama showed the biggest decrease in joblessness, with its rate falling to 8.1 percent last month from 8.7 percent in November, a report from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. Payrolls increased in 25 states, led by Texas.
Further employment gains put consumers in a better position to boost household spending, the biggest part of the world’s largest economy. U.S. employers added 200,000 workers in December and the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 8.5 percent, the lowest since February 2009, the Labor Department reported on Jan. 6.
“We’ll see some pretty good distribution of job growth across the whole country this time,” Steven Cochrane, head of economic research at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. “The recent declines in new claims for unemployment insurance have been pretty widespread across the regions.”
Texas led the nation with a gain of 20,200 workers, followed by Indiana with 15,100. Payrolls in New York dropped by 14,000, the biggest decrease among the 24 states showing losses.
Michigan’s jobless rate dropped to 9.3 percent in December from 9.8 percent the prior month, making it the state with the second-biggest decrease. The rate is down 1.8 percentage points over the past 12 months, which may in part reflect a rebound in auto making.
Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. carmaker, posted a 10 percent gain in sales last month from a year earlier, and closed out 2011 with 2.15 million light vehicles purchased, an 11 percent gain.
“We were able to end the year on, what we feel, is a high note,” Erich Merkle, Ford’s U.S. sales analyst, said on a conference call Jan. 4. “December was a strong number.”
Nevada’s jobless rate, at 12.6 percent last month, remained the highest in the U.S. Nonetheless, it’s shown the most improvement over the past year, falling 2.3 percentage points.
North Dakota again had the lowest level of unemployment at 3.3 percent.
The economy probably expanded at a 3 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter, up from a 1.8 percent gain in the previous three month, figures from the Commerce Department may show on Jan. 26 according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
The unemployment rate in Florida, home to the next Republican presidential primary contest, fell to 9.9 percent from 10 percent the prior month.
State and local employment data are derived independently from the national statistics, which are typically released on the first Friday of every month. The state figures are subject to larger sampling errors because they come from smaller surveys, making the national figures more reliable, according to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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