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Unemployment rates rose in Md. and 17 other states last month

WASHINGTON — Unemployment rates rose in Maryland and 17 other states in May, the most in nine months. Increasing unemployment in more than a third of U.S. states is the latest evidence of a weaker job market.

The Labor Department said that unemployment rates fell in only 14 states. That’s fewer than the previous month, when rates fell in 37 states. Rates were unchanged in 18 states.

Nationally, the rate rose to 8.2 percent in May from 8.1 percent in April, the first increase in almost a year. Employers added only 69,000 jobs, the fewest in 12 months.

Still, 27 states added jobs in May. California gained the most, adding 33,900. Ohio was next with 19,600.

North Carolina reported the biggest loss, shedding 16,500 jobs. It was followed by Pennsylvania, which lost nearly 10,000.

Maryland had the third-biggest loss, 7,500 jobs. The state’s May unemployment rate increased to 6.8 percent, from 6.7 percent the month before.

“This was a disappointing monthly report after what has been a solid steady year of job creation and recovery,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “After creating 35,600 net new jobs over the past 12 months, today, 30,800 more Marylanders are working than were at this time last year. This is the best May to May for job creation since before the Bush recession. For 24 months in a row, our monthly job growth has been higher than the previous years. Though Maryland’s unemployment rate increased slightly, it still remains nearly 20 percent below the national average.”

Nevada had the nation’s highest unemployment rate, at 11.6 percent, followed by Rhode Island’s 11 percent and California’s 10.8 percent.

North Dakota, meanwhile, reported the nation’s lowest rate of 3 percent. Nebraska had the next lowest, at 3.9 percent.

Despite the slowdown in hiring in recent months, some of the hardest-hit states have seen substantial improvement in the past year.

Michigan and Nevada have both seen their unemployment rates fall 2.1 percentage points in the past 12 months. Both states still have higher unemployment rates than the national average. But Michigan’s rate was 8.5 percent last month, down from 10.6 percent in May 2011.

Florida and Mississippi have seen their rates fall 2 percentage points in the past 12 months. Florida’s rate was 8.6 percent, down from 10.6 percent in the same month last year. Mississippi’s is 8.7 percent, down from 10.7 percent in May 2011.

Some of those declines reflect more hiring. The nation has gained more than 1 million jobs in the past six months.

But the lower rates also are a result of more people becoming discouraged and dropping out of the work force. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively looking for work.