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Unemployment rates dropped in 21 states in March

Josh Boak Associated Press

WASHINGTON – More than two-thirds of the states reported job gains in March, as hiring has improved for much of the country during what has been a sluggish but sustained 4 1/2-year recovery.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates dropped in 21 states, rose in 17 and were unchanged in the remaining 12. Meanwhile, hiring increased in 34 states and fell in 16.

The unemployment rate varies from as low as 2.6 percent in North Dakota to as much as 8.7 percent in Rhode Island. South Carolina has experienced the sharpest rate decline over 12 months to 5.5 percent from 8 percent.

The rate nationwide stayed at 6.7 percent in March for the second straight month. That national rate stayed flat because someone was hired for almost every person who entered the job market last month.

Employers added 192,000 jobs nationwide in March, close to the average monthly gains of the past two years.

Washington state added an estimated 6,700 jobs in March and the unemployment rate is holding steady at 6.3 percent, according to a report released Wednesday by the state Employment Security Department.

Hiring in March helped push Idaho’s unemployment rate to 5.2 percent, the state’s lowest level in 5 1/2 years.

About 736,000 people were working in Idaho last month, a gain of 11,000 over March 2013, when the state’s unemployment rate was 6.5 percent, Labor Department officials said.

North Idaho counties also experienced year-over-year reductions in jobless rates.

Kootenai County’s unemployment rate was 6.3 percent last month, compared with 7.7 percent in March 2013.

Bonner County’s rate was 7.6 percent, down from 9.3 percent a year ago. Boundary County was at 7.7 percent, down from 9.5 percent; Benewah County was 10.5 percent, down from 11.4 percent; and Shoshone County was 10.7 percent, down from 11.3 percent.

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