Payrolls rose in 34 states in October, led by Florida

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WASHINGTON — Payrolls increased in 34 states in October and the unemployment rate fell in 28, a sign labor market progress is picking up across much of the country.

Florida led the nation with a 44,600 gain in employment last month, followed by California with 39,800 more jobs, Labor Department figures showed Friday in Washington.

The gains came even as federal government agencies partially shut down in the first half of the month, leading to the furloughing of about 800,000 workers at one point and biting into consumer and business confidence. Bigger gains in employment could help boost sentiment and household spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, ahead of the holiday shopping season.

"The job market held up better than many people anticipated in October," Ryan Sweet, senior economist at Moody's Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pa., said before the report. "It seems like the underlying trend in the job market is turning."

Preliminary local and area unemployment statistics for September were not released on schedule because of the government shutdown that lasted Oct. 1 to Oct. 16, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics webpage. The final data were released today alongside October's preliminary figures.

In September, payrolls increased in 26 states and the unemployment rate declined in 33.

North Carolina showed the third-biggest gain in employment last month with a 22,200 increase in payrolls.

Missouri and South Carolina showed the biggest declines in unemployment in October, with the jobless rate in each falling by 0.4 percentage point. Over the past year, the rate dropped the most in Florida, which showed a 1.5 point decrease.

Nevada was the state with the highest jobless rate in the country in October, at 9.3 percent. Rhode Island was second, with a rate of 9.2 percent. North Dakota had the lowest unemployment in the nation, at 2.7 percent.

States showing the biggest declines in employment last month included Kentucky, where payrolls dropped by 12,600, and Washington, with a decrease of 8,100.

The economy added 204,000 workers in October, topping the most optimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey, nationwide figures showed on Nov. 8. The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.3 percent after dropping to an almost five-year low of 7.2 percent in September.

State and local employment data are derived independently from the national statistics, which are typically released on the first Friday of every month, though the government shutdown delayed the release of September and October reports. The state figures are subject to larger sampling errors because they come from smaller surveys, thus making the national figures more reliable, according to the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Labor market strength has implications for the Federal Reserve's asset-buying program.

In an interview on Bloomberg Television this week, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard, a voter on Fed policy this year who has backed the central bank's $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, said continued job gains could increase the chances that policy makers will decide to taper at their December meeting.

"It's definitely on the table, but it's going to depend on the data," Bullard said. "A strong jobs report, I think, would increase the probability some for a December taper."