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July jobless rate rises in 28 states

Unemployment in Mass. edges up to 7.2 percent

WASHINGTON — Unemployment rates rose in more than half of US states in July and fewer states added jobs, echoing national data that show the job market may have lost some momentum.

The Labor Department said Monday that unemployment rates increased in 28 states. They were unchanged in 14 and fell in eight states — the fewest to show a decline since January.

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The Massachusetts jobless rate was 7.2 percent in July 2013, up from 6.8 percent a year earlier.

Hiring increased in 32 states in July, compared with June, the fewest to report job gains in three months. Seventeen states reported job losses. California, Georgia, and Florida reported the largest job gains, while New Jersey and Nevada lost the most.

Nationwide, hiring has been steady this year but slowed in July. Employers added 162,000 jobs, the fewest since March. The unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, a 4½-year low, from 7.6 percent.

And while the job market has improved over the past 12 months, the gains appear to be benefiting Southern and Western states most of all.

Unemployment in the West fell to 7.9 percent in July. That was down from 9.3 percent a year earlier and was the biggest decline of the four regions. In the South, unemployment fell to 7.3 percent, from 7.8 percent a year before.

Nationwide, hiring has been steady this year but slowed in July. The unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, a 4½-year low, from 7.6 percent.

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Unemployment has barely changed in the Midwest, to 7.3 percent from 7.5 percent in the past year. In the Northeast, it dropped to 7.6 percent from 8.4 percent.

Steve Cochrane, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, said Southern and Western states have seen steady growth in manufacturing jobs. And the South is benefiting from lower taxes and cheaper labor.

‘‘Some of the old, longstanding comparative advantages are reemerging as drivers of growth,’’ he added.

California has propelled much of the gains in the West, adding 38,100 jobs in July to lead all states. And California has added 236,000 jobs in the past year, second only to Texas’s 293,000 jobs.

Unemployment in California fell to 8.7 percent in July from 10.6 percent 12 months earlier — the biggest year-over-year drop for any state.

Another bright spot is Utah, which gained the largest percentage of jobs in 12 months. Utah’s gains were in information technology, manufacturing, and construction.

In the South, Texas, Florida, and Georgia have been driving job growth. Georgia added 30,900 jobs in July, the second- most of any state. Many of the gains were in transportation, utilities, retail, hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks.

Nevada reported the nation’s highest unemployment rate in July, 9.5 percent.

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