Payrolls rose in 36 states in February and the unemployment rate dropped in 22, a sign labor market slack is gradually diminishing in the U.S. economy.
California led the nation with an almost 40,000 increase in employment, followed by a 25,100 advance in New York, figures from the Labor Department showed. Jobless rates in New Hampshire and South Dakota were the lowest in the nation at 2.7 percent. “People are not getting laid off at a sharp clip right now, hiring seems to be rock solid,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities LLC in New York. “In the labor market, everything is good.”
New Hampshire and Hawaii showed the biggest percentage gain in employment with 0.7 percent increases, followed by Arkansas and Utah at 0.5 percent. States where payrolls declined included North Dakota, Iowa and Delaware.
The biggest decrease in the unemployment rate occurred in Tennessee, where joblessness fell by 0.5 percentage point to 4.9 percent in February. Wyoming showed the largest statistically significant increase, with the rate climbing to 5 percent from 4.7 percent. Alaska had the nation’s highest unemployment rate in February, at 6.6 percent.
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, thus making the national figures more reliable, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That report showed payrolls across the U.S. climbed by 242,000 in February after a 172,000 increase that was bigger than initially estimated. The unemployment rate held at an eight-year low of 4.9 percent, offering further proof that the labor market is tightening.