Unemployment fell in fewer states in July than in the previous three months, a sign that jobs remain scarce nationwide.
The jobless rate dropped in 18 states and the District of Columbia last month, the Labor Department said Friday. It rose in 14 states and stayed the same in 18. That's a slowdown from the past three months when unemployment fell in more than 30 states.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.5 percent in July.
The report suggests many states are seeing less improvement in the job market than earlier this year. But there were positive signs that indicate the recovery hasn't stalled out.
Thirty-seven states saw job gains in July, an improvement from June and about the same as May. That occurred even as many states lost temporary census jobs. Overall, 143,000 census jobs across the country ended in July.
Job market improvement "is slow, but it's still moving in the right direction," said Steve Cochrane, an economist at Moody's Analytics.
There were some bright spots in the Northeast. New York and Massachusetts reported strong job gains. Massachusetts added 19,200 private-sector jobs, the largest monthly gain in more than 20 years.
Nevada posted the nation's highest unemployment rate for the third straight month, at 14.3 percent. It took the top spot from Michigan, which held it for four years, in May. Michigan's rate, the second highest, fell slightly to 13.1 percent from 13.2 percent in June.
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