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May 19, 10:52 AM EDT

Unemployment rates hit record lows in 3 states


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Solid hiring nationwide led unemployment rates to touch record lows in three U.S. states last month.

Unemployment rates declined in 10 states in April, increased in one - Massachusetts - and held relatively stable in the other 39, the Labor Department said Friday. A significant number of the job gains occurred in nine states, led by Texas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Indiana was the only state to see a significant decrease in jobs last month.

Arkansas, Colorado and Oregon reported the lowest unemployment rates since 1976. Colorado's rate, at 2.3 percent, was the nation's lowest.

Those states' jobless rates fell because more residents found work. In some cases, the rate falls when those out of work stop looking and are no longer counted as unemployed.

All told, 19 states had unemployment rates lower than the national average of 4.4 percent. Hawaii, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota each had jobless rates below 3 percent. The highest unemployment rate was New Mexico at 6.7 percent, while Alaska had the second highest at 6.6 percent.

Nevada, Hawaii and North Dakota enjoyed the stronger percentage job gains last month, while Indiana experienced a loss of 11,300 jobs, or a decline of 0.4 percent.

Across the country, employers added 211,000 jobs in March. Hiring has averaged 174,000 jobs in the past three months, close to last year's pace. The unemployment rate has tumbled to 4.4 percent from 4.8 percent in January.

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