A new federal report says North Carolina workers are finding more doors opening to jobs.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that North Carolina showed the country’s second-largest employment increase in March, adding nearly 20,000 jobs. Florida led the 34 states where nonfarm payrolls increased last month.
North Carolina’s jobless rate also was below the national average for the second straight month. The state’s unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, the lowest it’s been in more than five years and below the national average of 6.7 percent.
North Carolina trailed only South Carolina for the states with the largest unemployment rate declines in the past year. North Carolina had an 8.5 percent jobless rate in March 2013.
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 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.
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.
Florida led the nation with a 22,900 increase in payrolls, followed by North Carolina with 19,400 more jobs, figures from the Labor Department showed Friday. Ohio registered among the biggest declines in joblessness.
Ohio experienced the largest month-to-month drop in its unemployment rate: 0.4 percentage points to 6.1 percent. That steep drop occurred because the state added 12,000 jobs last month, while the total number of people in its job market fell 11,200 to 5.75 million.
Unemployment rates can fall when people leave the job market, as well as when employers hire.
North Carolina reported the second largest year-over-year drop in the unemployment rate: a 2.2 percentage point decrease to 6.3 percent. Part of that decline came from the loss of unemployment benefits for jobless workers. Because those workers needed to look for jobs in order to receive benefits, the loss of the jobless aid likely caused them to give up their hunts and no longer be counted as unemployed.
Several states continue to lag the gains made across the country. Unemployment remains elevated in Nevada (8.5 percent), Illinois (8.4 percent), California (8.1 percent) and Kentucky (7.9 percent).
Payrolls climbed in 34 states in March and unemployment rates fell in 21, showing the job market was making progress across much of the world’s largest economy.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.