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Payrolls rose in 41 states in December, led by Texas, New York

[WASHINGTON] Payrolls increased in 41 states in December and the unemployment rate fell in 42 as the US labour market closed out its best year since 1999.

Texas led the nation with a 45,700 increase in payrolls, followed by New York with 30,400 additional jobs, figures from the Labour Department showed on Tuesday in Washington.

Broad-based advances in hiring are helping to lift Americans' confidence and spur consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 per cent of the economy. Growth in job creation and the lowest US unemployment rate since 2008 also indicate that workers may be getting closer to a pickup in wages.

"The labour market continues to get better," Tom Simons, an economist at Jefferies LLC in New York, said before the report. "Most of the job market data suggest pretty strong gains in employment. There's a lot of good momentum."

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Unemployment decreased the most in Delaware, declining 0.6 percentage point to 5.4 per cent in December, the report showed.

North Dakota had the lowest unemployment in the nation, at 2.8 per cent. Mississippi had the highest jobless rate among the 50 states, at 7.2 per cent, and the District of Columbia had an unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent.

State and local employment data are derived independently from the national statistics, which are typically released on the first Friday of every month. The state figures are subject to larger sampling errors because they come from smaller surveys, thus making the national figures more reliable, according to the government's Bureau of Labour Statistics.

In the latest report, other states showing gains in employment included Illinois and North Carolina.

The data are consistent with a strengthening outlook signalled by other reports. Employers added 252,000 workers to payrolls in December following 353,000 the prior month, and the jobless rate fell to 5.6 per cent, the lowest level since June 2008, according to figures released earlier this month. About 3 million more Americans found work in 2014, the best year for the labour market since 1999.

Federal Reserve officials, meeting this week as they consider when to start raising interest rates, are monitoring the labour market and the economy for signs of progress.

While American Express Co, EBay Inc and US Steel Corp are among companies that have announced that they will be cutting jobs, the news doesn't alter the big picture. Among the signs employment will keep climbing: Job openings increased in November to the highest level in almost 14 years.

So far, figures on applications for unemployment benefits show there is little evidence that the oil slump is causing an increase in firings in the US fuel belt.

Any announcements of big staff reductions at oil producers would take time to translate into actual firings, and may be unlikely to become visible in labour-market data for some months, according to Simons of Jefferies.