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Nov 21, 11:21 AM EST

Unemployment rates fall in two-thirds of US states


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates fell in 34 U.S. states in October, a sign that steady hiring this year has been broadly dispersed through most of the country.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in just 5 states, the fewest since April. Rates were unchanged in 11 states.

Steady economic growth has prompted more companies to add jobs, though the additional hiring hasn't yet boosted wages. Nationwide, employers added 214,000 jobs in October, the ninth straight month of gains above 200,000. That's the longest such stretch since 1995. The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent, a six-year low.

Georgia had the highest unemployment rate in October, at 7.7 percent, though that was down from 7.9 percent in September. North Dakota continued to have the lowest rate, at 2.8 percent.

Employers added jobs in 38 states and cut them in 12. The biggest gains occurred in California, which added 41,500; Texas, which gained 35,200; and Florida, which added 34,400.

Nevada reported the largest job loss, a decline of 7,300, followed by New York, where employers cut 5,600, and New Jersey, which lost 4,500.

On a regional basis, the Midwest reported the lowest unemployment rate, at 5.6 percent, followed by the Northeast at 5.9 percent. Unemployment in the South was 6 percent last month, and in the West, 6.5 percent.

Recent data suggests hiring nationwide should remain healthy in the coming months. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits slipped last week and remains not far from 14-year lows. That suggests few companies are laying off workers and are likely confident enough in the economy to keep adding jobs.

A survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia this month found that a majority of manufacturers in the region plan to add jobs over the next 12 months.

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