Unemployment rate drops in two-thirds of states

WASHINGTON (AP) — The unemployment rate fell in two-thirds of the nation's states last month, the latest evidence that the strengthening economy is encouraging many employers to boost hiring.

The Labor Department said today that the unemployment rate dropped in 34 states in March. That's the largest number of states to record a decline since June. The rate rose in seven states and was unchanged in nine and Washington, D.C.

Employers hired more workers in 38 states. A government survey of employer payrolls found only 12 states plus Washington, D.C. lost jobs last month, the fewest since October.

Nationally, the unemployment rate fell in March to a two-year low of 8.8 percent, and private employers added more than 200,000 jobs for the second consecutive month. That's the largest two-month hiring total in four years.

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