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January 31, 2003
West with Highest Unemployment in December
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January 31, 2003

Regional and state unemployment rates were generally stable in December. All four regions recorded little or no change from November, and 43 states registered shifts of 0.3 percentage point or less, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported.

The national jobless rate was unchanged at 6.0 percent in December. Nonfarm employment decreased in 34 states and the District of Columbia in December. Regional Unemployment (Seasonally Adjusted) Among the four regions, the Midwest had the lowest unemployment rate in December, 5.2 percent, followed by the South, at 5.4 percent. The West continued to report the highest rate, 6.3 percent.

The only significant over-the-year unemployment rate change was recorded in the Northeast, up 0.6 percentage point to 5.7 percent. Among the nine geographic divisions, the West North Central again reported the lowest jobless rate, 4.2 percent in December, while the Pacific continued to register the highest rate, 6.6 percent. All divisions posted little or no change from November. The two Northeast divisions had the largest unemployment rate increases from December 2001--Middle Atlantic (+0.7 percentage point) and New England (+0.6 point).

The largest over-the- year rate declines were recorded in two of the three divisions in the South- -East South Central and South Atlantic (-0.3 percentage point each).

In December, North Dakota and South Dakota reported the lowest unemployment rates, 3.0 percent each, followed by Nebraska, at 3.4 percent. These three West North Central states have had the lowest rates since August 2002. Meanwhile, Alaska registered the highest jobless rate, 7.4 percent. Two other Pacific states --Oregon and Washington -- recorded the next highest rates, 7.0 and 6.8 percent, respectively.

Unemployment rates increased over the month in 28 states and the District of Columbia, decreased in 16 states, and were unchanged in 6 states. Nevada posted the largest jobless rate decrease (-1.9 percentage points), followed by Hawaii (-1.4 points). Both states had registered substantial unemployment increases following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, due to a dropoff in tourism-related activities.

Total nonfarm employment decreased in 34 states and the District of Columbia, increased in 13 states, and was unchanged in 3 states from November to December.

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