Unemployment rates fell in four-fifths of US states in December and rose in just two, though most of the improvement stemmed from unemployed Americans giving up on their job searches.
The Labor Department said on Tuesday that employers in 30 states added jobs, the fewest to report gains since August. Maryland and Virginia were among the states reporting a drop in unemployment and the addition of jobs.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said the state created 7,o00 jobs in Dec., and gained 300 in the private sector. The state's unemployment rate also dropped to 6.1 percent.
Virginia gained just over 3,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate dipping to 5.2 percent.
Unemployment in the District dropped to 8.1 percent, a decrease of half a percentage point since Nov.
Nationwide, employers added just 74,000 jobs last month, the fewest in three years and much lower than the average of 214,000 in the previous four months. Economists attributed some of the slowdown to cold weather.
Nationally, the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest in more than five years. But the decline occurred mostly because more people stopped looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching for jobs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.