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Unemployment drops in 24 states in January as job market improves nationwide

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WASHINGTON — Unemployment rates fell in 24 states in January and rose in just eight, the latest evidence that hiring is strong across the country.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that jobless rates were unchanged from December in 18 states and in Washington, D.C.

North Dakota has the nation's lowest jobless rate, 2.8 percent, a sign that falling oil prices had yet to cause major layoffs in a state that has benefited from an energy boom. Mississippi and Nevada each had the highest unemployment rate, 7.1 percent.

PHOTO: In this Jan. 23, 2015 photo, Mark Childers grabs a turkey reuben sandwich to deliver to a customer at the Superior Restaurant Friday, in Cleveland. The Labor Department reports on state unemployment rates for January on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
In this Jan. 23, 2015 photo, Mark Childers grabs a turkey reuben sandwich to deliver to a customer at the Superior Restaurant Friday, in Cleveland. The Labor Department reports on state unemployment rates for January on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Unemployment dropped the most from January 2014 in Illinois (to 6.1 percent in January from 8.2 percent a year earlier) and in Rhode Island (to 6.5 percent from 8.6 percent). In both states, the drop in unemployment partially reflected people dropping out of the labor force. Those who are not seeking jobs aren't counted as unemployed.

Employers added jobs in 39 states and reduced them in 10 and in Washington, D.C. California gained 67,300 jobs in January, Ohio rose 25,100 and Michigan added 24,200. Virginia lost 10,900, Minnesota 7,900 and Louisiana 7,500.

Nationwide, employers have added 3.3 million jobs over the past year. Unemployment across the nation dropped to 5.5 percent in February from 6.7 percent a year earlier.

Still, the economy isn't exactly booming. After surging at a 5 percent annual pace from July through September last year, the economy grew an unspectacular 2.2 percent the last three months of 2014; it is expected to register similar growth from January through March. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that home construction plunged in February, pushed down by brutal winter weather in the Northeast and Midwest.

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