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N.M. Feb. Jobless Rate Up to 7.2%

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New Mexico was one of only eight states to see its jobless rate rise in February – to 7.2 percent from 7.0 percent in January – new data from state Workforce Solutions and the U.S. Labor Department show.

The state’s rate of over-the-year employment growth, comparing February 2012 with February 2011, came in at 0.6 percent, representing a gain of 5,100 jobs, Workforce Solutions said in a news release. It was the seventh straight month of year-over-year increases, after decreases for 32 of the preceding 33 months.

The employment survey showed the following gains and losses: educational and health services, up 5,700 jobs; mining, up 2,500; professional and business services, down 4,600; construction, down 1,100; government, down 900 jobs.

Nationally, the Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates declined in 29 states and rose in eight. Rates were unchanged in 13 states and in Washington, D.C.

Still, job growth was more widespread across the country in February than in previous months. Employers added jobs in 42 states, the most in almost a year. Nationwide, the economy added 227,000 net jobs in February and has averaged 245,000 jobs a month since December.

The economy is expanding only modestly. But economists expect the stronger job market will help lift growth later this year.

Some of the worst-hit states are seeing progress. Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent in February. That’s down from a peak of 14.2 percent in August 2009. Many there are benefiting from the recovery in the auto industry, which has boosted job creation.

Many of the states hit hardest by the housing bust are also showing signs of health. Florida’s unemployment rate has fallen to 9.4 percent from 10.8 percent a year earlier. California’s rate is still painfully high at 10.9 percent. But it has dropped from 12 percent a year ago.

Nevada has the nation’s highest unemployment rate, at 12.3 percent. The state lost 12,800 jobs last month, the most of all states. That was also the biggest percentage job loss of any state.

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