Unemployment rates fell in a majority of states last month as improved economic conditions spurred hiring.
The Labor Department said Friday that 34 states and the District of Columbia reported lower jobless rates in April. Six states reported higher rates, while 10 saw unemployment hold steady.
That marked an improvement from March when 16 states and D.C. eported declines in unemployment, 22 states saw increases, and 2 had no change, according to revised figures.
South Carolina's rate fell to 11.6 percent in April, from 12.2 percent in March. That marked the largest monthly drop of any state.
After cutting their work forces to the bone during the recession, companies are starting to boost hiring as their sales and profits improve.
Nationwide, employers added a net 290,000 job in April, the most in four years, the department reported earlier this month. The U.S. unemployment rate, though, rose to 9.9 percent as hundreds of thousands of job hunters — feeling more confident about their prospects — resumed or started searches.
Even as the employment picture is less bleak in many states, and the nation as a whole, many economists predict it will take years for the job market to get back to normal. A normal nationwide unemployment rate typically hovers around 5.5 to 6 percent. It's going to be a long slog because economic growth isn't robust enough for companies to ramp up hiring and quickly drive down the jobless rate.
Michigan, whose manufacturing base was clobbered by the recession, once again recorded the highest unemployment rate of any state — 14 percent. The rate dipped from 14.1 percent in March.
Nevada was close behind. It's rate rose to 13.7 percent last month, the highest on records dating back to 1976. California rounded out the top three with a rate of 12.6 percent, unchanged from March. Nevada and California — states at the heart of the housing boom — have been slammed by the market's bust and have been swamped by a wave of foreclosures.
North Dakota again had the lowest jobless rate — 3.8 percent. That's down from 4 percent in March. It was followed by South Dakota, whose rate dipped to 4.7 percent in April, from 4.8 percent in March, and Nebraska at 5 percent, unchanged from the previous month.
Friday's report also said that a majority of states saw employers boost jobs in April. The top three gainers: Ohio, with saw payrolls grow by 37,300 in April, from March; Pennsylvania, with 34,000 net new jobs; and New York with 32,700.