WASHINGTON — Unemployment rates fell in 23 U.S. states last month and rose in 12 as employers pulled back on hiring and a slowdown in oil and gas drilling caused big job losses in some states.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that unemployment rates were unchanged in 15 states. Thirty-one state lost jobs while hiring picked up in just 18 states.
The biggest job cuts occurred in states with large oil and gas drilling, led by Texas, which lost 25,400 jobs, and followed by Oklahoma, which cut 12,900. Pennsylvania lost 12,700, the third largest loss. A sharp fall in oil prices since last June has caused oil and gas companies to cut back on drilling.
Nationwide, employers added just 126,000 jobs in March, the fewest in a year. The unemployment rate remained 5.5 percent.
The cutbacks in oil and gas production have also led to job losses in North Dakota, which had experienced an oil and gas boom since the recession. The boom sent the unemployment rate falling to the lowest in the nation.
But in February its unemployment rate rose and the state no longer had the lowest unemployment rate nationwide. It rose again in March, to 3.1 percent. Nebraska now has the lowest rate, at 2.6 percent.
Nevada reported the highest unemployment rate, at 7.1 percent.