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Unemployment rates fall in 21 US states last month

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than two-thirds of the states reported job gains in March, as hiring improves for much of the country during what has been a sluggish but sustained 4 1/2-year recovery.

The Labor Department says unemployment rates dropped in 21 states, rose in 17 and was unchanged in the remaining 12. Meanwhile, hiring increased in 34 states and fell in 16.

The unemployment rate varies from as low as 2.6 percent in North Dakota to as much as 8.7 percent in Rhode Island. South Carolina has experienced the sharpest decline over 12 months to 5.5 percent from 8 percent.

The rate nationwide stayed at 6.7 percent in March for the second straight month.

Employers added 192,000 jobs nationwide in March, close to the average monthly gains of the past two years.

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