WASHINGTON - Unemployment rates fell in half of U.S. states last month, led by drops in California, West Virginia, New York and Hawaii.
The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in 17 states and were unchanged in eight.
In Colorado, the state's unemployment rate in May was 6.9 percent, unchanged from April, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Friday. Colorado's unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in May 2012.
Colorado also saw a decrease of 5,000 nonfarm payroll jobs from April to May for a total of 2,353,600 jobs.
According to a survey of business establishments, private sector payroll jobs in Colorado decreased 4,900 and government decreased 100.
The number of people participating in the labor force in the state increased 7,800 from April to May and the number of people reporting themselves as employed (total employment) increased 9,000.
The larger increase in total employment than in the labor force caused the number of unemployed to decline 1,200. However, due to rounding, the unemployment rate remained unchanged.
Nationwide, employers added jobs in 33 states in May. The biggest gains were in Ohio, Texas and Michigan.
California and West Virginia had the largest declines in unemployment among all states. In California, the rate dropped to 8.6 percent from 9 percent in April. West Virginia's rate fell to 6.2 percent from 6.6 percent.
Both states reported job gains.
New York and Hawaii also had significant declines. New York's unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent from 7.8 percent, while Hawaii's fell to 4.7 percent from 4.9 percent.
North Dakota had the nation's lowest unemployment rate at 3.2 percent.
Nevada had the highest at 9.5 percent. It was followed by Illinois and Mississippi, each at 9.1 percent.
Nationally, the economy added 175,000 jobs in May, nearly matching the average monthly gain for the past year. The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.6 percent from 7.5 percent, but for a good reason: More Americans were confident they could find work and began searching for a job.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday offered a brighter outlook for the job market and economy. And Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed is likely to slow its bond-buying program later this year and end it next year if the economy continues to strengthen.
Fed officials now expect the unemployment rate to fall as low as 7.2 percent this year and between 6.5 percent and 6.8 percent by the end of 2014.
The Denver Post contributed to this story.