WASHINGTON – Unemployment fell in 20 states last month and nearly three-quarters of the states added jobs, as the nation at large posted a fourth straight month of solid hiring.
Unemployment rates rose in 16 states and were unchanged in 14 states, the Labor Department said Friday. Meanwhile, hiring rose in 36 states and declined in 14.
The biggest drops in unemployment rates occurred in Illinois, where the rate fell to 7.5 percent from 7.9 percent, and Massachusetts, where it fell to 5.6 percent from 6 percent. Georgia reported the largest increase, to 7.2 percent from 6.9 percent.
Nationwide, employers added 217,000 jobs in May, the fourth straight month of gains above 200,000. That's the first such stretch since 1999. The unemployment rate remained at 6.3 percent, matching a five-year low.
Some of the unemployment rate declines occurred because many of those out of work gave up on their job hunts. The government doesn't count people as unemployed unless they are actively looking for work.
There is another reason that so many states added jobs but far fewer saw a decline in their unemployment rates. The unemployment rate and job figures sometimes diverge because they come from two separate surveys. The job gains are derived from a survey of businesses, the unemployment rate from a survey of households.
The two surveys can sometimes produce different results, though they usually even out over time.
For example, the employer survey in Illinois found a tiny job loss, but the survey of households in that state found that about 9,000 more people said they were employed. That's why its rate fell.
North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.6 percent, followed by Vermont at 3.3 percent.
Rhode Island, meanwhile, had the highest rate at 8.2 percent. Nevada had the second-highest at 7.9 percent.