WASHINGTON (AP) -- Employers cut jobs in 20 states last month, suggesting modest improvement in the U.S. job market this year is not enough to benefit all areas of the country.
The Labor Department said Friday that 29 states added jobs, while Montana showed no net gain or loss in August. Unemployment rates rose in 18 states, fell in 17 and were unchanged in 15.
"The picture is decidedly mixed," said Jim Diffley, chief US regional economist at IHS Global Insight. "We're still optimistic about the improvement (in hiring), but it's been slow."
Nationally, the economy added 169,000 jobs in August, a modest gain but hardly enough to suggest a robust job market. The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.3 percent.
The tepid hiring gains mean that most states still have fewer jobs than they did when the recession began in December 2007. IHS Global Insight forecasts that only 18 states will have returned to their pre-recession job levels by the end of this year.
Overall, the United States still has 1.9 million fewer jobs than before the recession. Hiring has averaged just 155,000 a month since April. That's down from an average of 205,000 in the first four months.
Nevada's payrolls rose 11,200. Still, its unemployment rate remained 9.5 percent, the highest in the nation.
Louisiana added 14,000 jobs. Its unemployment rate was also unchanged, at 7 percent.
Illinois had the second-highest unemployment rate at 9.2 percent. North Dakota reported the lowest rate, at 3 percent.