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Jobless Rates Decline in Key States

Wall Street Journal (03/14/12) Josh Mitchell

Joblessness remains high but has fallen in a handful of states expected to be closely contested in this November’s presidential election. The biggest job gains have come in the industrial Midwest—places such as Ohio and Michigan—where manufacturers have stepped up hiring in response to a surge in auto sales and other exports. The unemployment rate in Michigan fell more sharply than in any other state, to 9% in January, down nearly two percentage points from a year ago. The jobless rates in Colorado and Ohio fell by at least a percentage point each to 7.8% and 7.7%, respectively. In all, six of 10 states expected to be closely contested in the election have a jobless rate below the national average.

Nevada and North Carolina, two states hit hard by the housing bust, each saw their unemployment rate fall by more than a percentage point over the past year, but both states were still stuck in double digits in January, the most recent month for which data are available. U.S. Federal Reserve officials project U.S. unemployment will be between 8.2% and 8.5% by the end of the year.