WASHINGTON -- Unemployment rates fell in more than half the U.S. states in March even as job growth slowed. Rates fell largely because many of those out of work stopped looking for jobs and were no longer counted as unemployed.
Unemployment rates fell in 26 states, rose in 7 and were unchanged in 17. In Illinois, unemployment leveled off at 9.5 percent, the Department of Employment Security said Thursday, leaving the state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and 629,000 people looking for work.
Only 23 states reported a net gain in hiring in March, the fewest since August 2011. Employers cut jobs in 26 states, and New Mexico reported little change. That was much worse than in February, when 42 states reported job gains.
Nationwide, hiring slowed sharply in March. Employers added only 88,000 jobs, down from an average of 220,000 from November through February. The unemployment rate fell to 7.6 percent, but only because more Americans ended their job searches.