Payrolls increased in 29 U.S. states in August, and the unemployment rate rose in 18, a sign progress in the labor market remains uneven.
New York led the nation with a 30,400 gain in employment, followed by California with 29,100 more jobs, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington.
Bigger gains in employment and wages would help to spur consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of the economy. Federal Reserve policy makers this week refrained from reducing the $85 billion pace of monthly bond buying, saying they needed more evidence of improvement in the expansion.
“The job market is likely going to improve in fits and starts,” Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. “Identifying the spark that jumpstarts hiring in the next few months is difficult.”
Unemployment increased the most in Arizona, rising to 8.3% last month from 8% in July. Jobless rates rose by 0.2 percentage point in six states, including California, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Nevada was the state with the highest jobless rate in the country, at 9.5%. Illinois was second, with a rate of 9.2%. North Dakota had the lowest unemployment in the nation, holding at 3% last month.
States showing the biggest declines in employment included Georgia, where payrolls dropped by 16,100, and Ohio, with a decrease of 8,200.
While New York led gains in hiring, the state’s unemployment rate climbed to 7.6% in August from 7.5% the prior month.
New Jersey’s jobless rate fell to 8.5% last month, the lowest level since March 2009, according to state figures issued yesterday.
The economy added 169,000 workers in August, fewer than projected, nationwide figures showed on Sept. 6. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.3%, the lowest since December 2008, as Americans left the labor force.
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 government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Fed policy makers this week said they decided to await more evidence that progress will be sustained before trimming the pace of monthly bond buying. “The tightening of financial conditions observed in recent months, if sustained, could slow the pace of improvement,” they said in a statement on Sept. 18 after a two-day meeting.
“Some indicators of labor market conditions have shown further improvement in recent months, but the unemployment rate remains elevated,” the Fed officials also said.