Unemployment down in most states in February

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Almost all states had lower unemployment rates in February than a year earlier, the Labor Department said on Friday, in a sign of a growing jobs recovery in the states.

Altogether, 41 states and the District of Columbia had lower unemployment rates than in February 2010, while the rates dropped in 27 states and the nation’s capital from January.

Nevada, which has had the highest jobless rate for at least nine months, continued to back off the record 14.5 percent hit in December and saw its jobless rate fall to 13.6 percent in February. California followed with 12.2 percent and then Florida at 11.5 percent.

The Labor Department said Nevada experienced the largest over-the-month unemployment rate decrease in the country.

While the recession that began in 2007 only spared a few states, the recovery has been uneven, with some states bouncing back faster than others.

For example, the jobless rate in Colorado reached 9.3 percent in February, its highest on records going back to 1976. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s fell to 9.7 percent, the lowest in two years, in what the state’s Employment Security Commission called “slow but steady progress.”

Both were still higher than U.S. unemployment rate of 8.9 percent in February. Altogether, rates were higher than the national one in about half of the 50 states. North Dakota registered the lowest rate of 3.7 percent, followed by Nebraska and South Dakota.

Earlier this month, the Labor Department said the country gained 192,000 jobs in February.

Even though California’s unemployment rate remained high, the Golden State gained the most jobs in February, 96,000, followed by Pennsylvania, which gained 23,700 jobs.

Howard Roth, chief economist for California’s Department of Finance, said February marked the strongest monthly increase in nonfarm payroll jobs in the state since 1990.

But he said the numbers could be inflated, noting January’s gains were revised down to 700 from an initially reported 12,500.

“Most of us are expecting some downward revision next month,” he said.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; additional reporting by Jim Christie in San Francisco)

Unemployment down in most states in February