By Jeff Bater Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRESWASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Unemployment rose in 29 states in the U.S. during October, hinting the threat posed by weak labor markets to the economic recovery might be growing.
Labor Department data Friday said 29 states and the District of Columbia recorded unemployment-rate increases from the prior month, while 13 states had rate decreases, and eight states had no rate change.
A month earlier, Labor had said 23 states and the District of Columbia reported over-the-month unemployment rate increases in September, while 19 had decreases and eight states had no rate change.
Friday's state-by-state jobless data came two weeks after the Labor Department reported the unemployment rate for the whole country climbed in October to 10.2%, a 26-year high.
Persistent labor-market weakness threatens the economy's recovery from the severe recession. "The best thing we can say about the labor market right now is that it may be getting worse more slowly," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said this week.
Of all 50 states in October, Michigan had the highest jobless rate, at 15.1%. Nevada was second, at 13.0%. North Dakota was lowest, with 4.2%.
The data showed October non-farm payroll employment increased in 28 states and the District of Columbia, while falling in 21 states and remaining unchanged in one state. Labor two weeks ago said U.S. non-farm payrolls shrank by 190,000 jobs.
A separate report Friday said the number of U.S. workers involved in mass layoffs during April fell, the second straight decline. The Labor Department said mass layoffs events in October totaled 2,127 on a seasonally adjusted basis, down from 2,561 in September. Mass layoff events involve 50 or more people at a single employer losing their jobs. The number of workers involved in the mass layoff actions totaled 217,182, down from September's 248,006. These people are identified as new filers for unemployment insurance. The latest data show new claims for jobless benefits remained steady at 505,000 last week, while the number of continuing claims fell by 39,000 to 5,611,000 in the preceding week.
Since the recession began in December 2007, the number of unemployed has increased by 8.2 million and the unemployment rate has grown by 5.3 percentage points.
Bernanke said jobs are likely to remain scarce and inflation low for some time. The Fed on Nov. 4 decided to keep its benchmark interest rate at a record low zero to 0.25%, citing a sluggish recovery. The central bank said it expects to keep its federal funds target rate close to zero for an "extended period" in the face of high unemployment and low inflation. For the first time, the Fed's rate-setting committee earlier this month spelled out the three key indicators it will be looking at to set rates: unemployment, core inflation and inflation expectations.
"Both the decline in jobs and the increase in the unemployment rate have been more severe than in any other recession since World War II," Bernanke warned.
-By Jeff Bater, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9249; firstname.lastname@example.org
(Luca Dileo contributed to this story).
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 20, 2009 10:27 ET (15:27 GMT)