WASHINGTON (AP) - Unemployment rates dropped in 22 U.S. states last month and stayed the same in 14, as the nation at large posted a fifth straight month of solid hiring.
The Labor Department says unemployment rates rose in 14 states. Meanwhile, employers added jobs in 33 states and cut back in 17.
The biggest drop in the unemployment rate occurred in Illinois, where it fell to 7.1 percent from 7.5 percent. The state's rate has fallen by 0.8 percentage points in the past two months, partly because more people have given up searching for work.
Nationwide, employers added 288,000 jobs last month, capping the healthiest stretch of hiring in 15 years. The robust job gains have helped cut the unemployment rate to 6.1 percent, the lowest in nearly six years.
State performance in job creation defies political categories. The big winners over the past five years include Republican-dominated red states such as Texas and Democratic-dominated blue ones such as California.
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