Victoria Stilwell (c) 2014, Bloomberg News. WASHINGTON — Payrolls rose in 39 states in September and the unemployment rate fell in 31, a sign the improvement in the U.S. labor market is broad-based.
Texas led the nation with a 36,400 increase in employment, followed by Illinois with 19,300 more jobs, figures from the labor Department showed here Tuesday.
Momentum in the labor market continues to improve as the economy withstands a global slowdown, underpinning demand for its goods and workers. Further job gains will be needed for wage growth to accelerate from an anemic pace and provide a lift to consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy.
“Companies are finally pretty stretched and feeling a little bit better about the future of economic activity, so they’re more confident in hiring workers,” said Sarah House, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “There’s still a lot of variation among the nation, but generally speaking, the trend is pretty positive.”
Colorado was among other states showing gains in employment. States showing declines included California, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The unemployment rate dropped the most in Colorado and Kentucky, which showed decreases of 0.4 percentage point. Vermont and Massachusetts were the only states seeing statistically significant increases in joblessness.
Georgia had the highest jobless rate in the country at 7.9 percent in September. North Dakota had the lowest at 2.8 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 government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Tuesday’s data on state jobs follows a report earlier this month that showed U.S. payrolls added 248,000 workers in September after growing by 180,000 in August, more than previously estimated by the Labor Department. The jobless rate fell to 5.9 percent, the lowest level since July 2008.
Federal Reserve policymakers are debating how much longer to keep interest rates near zero as the labor market improves while they also contend with global economic weakness that threatens to push U.S. inflation to dangerously low levels. The Fed has tapered purchases to $15 billion a month from $85 billion in December 2012.
The U.S. central bank, which cut interest rates to near zero in December 2008, said last month that asset purchases would probably end after its next meeting, on Oct. 28-29, and reiterated that rates would remain on hold for a “considerable time” after the program ends.