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State jobless situation little changed

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A total of 27 states reported rising unemployment rates in February, while rates decreased in seven states and the District of Columbia, according to a government report released Friday.

The Labor Department's monthly report on state unemployment also showed that jobless rates were unchanged 16 states.

In January, 30 states reported monthly jobless rate increases.

The report said 24 states posted rates that were lower than the national unemployment rate of 9.7%, while 13 states and the District of Columbia had measurably higher rates.

On an annual basis, jobless rates increased in 46 states and the District of Columbia in February. That's down from a total of 50 states in January.

"Things are not getting worse," said Cameron Findlay, chief economist at LendingTree, an online lending exchange. "I think this should be viewed as a positive sign."

Findlay said most economists expect the national jobless rate to remain above 9% for the rest of the year. But he added that there are some signs of improvement in corporate profits, which could bode well for hiring in the near term.

As in previous months, Michigan had the highest rate of unemployment at 14.1%, followed by Nevada at 13.2% and Rhode Island at 12.7%. The jobless rate in Nevada was a record high; Florida's 12.2% jobless rate was also a record.

Mississippi posted the largest jobless rate increase in February, rising 0.4 percentage point to 11.4%. Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Utah, and Virginia also reported significant jumps in unemployment rates.

North Dakota had the lowest jobless rate in the nation, at 4.1%.

The report came one week before the government releases its national jobs report for March. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com predict employers expanded payrolls by 200,000 in March after cutting 36,000 jobs in February. However, the national jobless rate is expected to remain unchanged at 9.7%.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are continuing to work on a number of bills to spur job creation through tax cuts for small businesses and other measures.

President Obama signed into law a $17.6 billion measure last week that calls for tax breaks for businesses and additional infrastructure spending with the hope of boosting employment.

In addition, a bill that would extend the deadline to file for unemployment benefits until year's end is currently making its way through Congress.

The White House announced new steps on Friday to help the unemployed and those who are "underwater" with a bigger mortgage than their home is worth. For some unemployed borrowers, the effort would require servicers to reduce or suspend monthly mortgage payments for up to six months. To top of page

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