The job market outlook for most Americans is looking better today than it was a year ago, according to the latest government statistics.
Figures from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that 41 states and the District of Columbia saw declines in the percentages of people out of work in July compared to last year, and three states had no change.
The national jobless rate held steady at 5.3%, the same as in June, but significantly lower than 6.2% unemployment rate a year ago. In all, 215,000 jobs were added in July, mostly in the retail, health care, professional and technical services and financial sectors, the BLS reported.
Among the states, 18 had jobless rates considerably better than the national average, 10 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates and 22 states had rates that were about the same.
Nebraska had the lowest unemployment rate in July, 2.7%, and West Virginia had the highest, 7.5%. Connecticut and Hawaii showed the strong improvements with joblessness, while Oregon and Arizona had the largest increase in the percentages of people out of work.
Overall, about 8.3 million Americans are unemployed, down 1.4 million from a year ago.
Nonfarm jobs increased in 34 states, with the biggest states seeing the largest gains. California added 80,700 jobs, Texas added 31,400 and Florida added 30,500.
New Jersey lost the most jobs (13,600) followed by Louisiana (4,500) and Kansas (4,300).
Percentage-wise, Wyoming fared the best in July with a 0.9% month-over-month gain, trailed by Oklahoma and Rhode Island, each with 0.7% gains. For the year, Utah, Nevada and Florida have added the most jobs.
Regionally, finding work might be easiest in the Midwest, which had the lowest unemployment rate of any U.S. region, at 4.8%. The West had the highest, 5.7%, although all regions saw improvements to their unemployment rates.
Economists agree that the solid report gives the Federal Reserve the green light to raise interest rates at its next meeting in September, despite the recent stock market volatility and financial crisis in China.
The central bank has held the interest rate steady since the recession to encourage economic growth. It has indicated it plans to increase the rates soon, and this favorable jobs report offers some assurances, provided the August report continues on the same path.