Report: Payrolls up in most states in March

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WASHINGTON — 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.

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 in Washington. Ohio registered among the biggest declines in joblessness.

Gains in hiring will probably help lift consumer confidence and spur household spending, which accounts for almost 70 percent of the economy. The Federal Reserve, in its latest Beige Book review of regional conditions, said the labor market was “generally positive.”

“We’re seeing broad-based employment gains from coast to coast,” Ryan Sweet, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pa., said before the report. “The job market is healing, though not as quickly as we’d like.”

The unemployment rate in Ohio dropped to 6.1 percent, the lowest since April 2008, from 6.5 percent in February, Friday’s report showed. Missouri and New Mexico were among states with the biggest increases in joblessness last month.

Although unemployment declined in Rhode Island, the state continued to have the highest rate in the country at 8.7 percent. Nevada was second, with a rate of 8.5 percent, followed by Illinois at 8.4 percent.

North Dakota had the lowest unemployment in the nation, holding at 2.6 percent, where it’s been since January.

In Friday’s report, states showing declines in payrolls included Pennsylvania and Virginia.