FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, file photo, a sign attracts job-seekers during a job fair at the Marriott Hotel in Colonie, N.Y. The Labor Department reports on state unemployment rates for May 2015 on Friday, June 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, file photo, a sign attracts job-seekers during a job fair at the Marriott Hotel in Colonie, N.Y. The Labor Department reports on state unemployment rates for May 2015 on Friday, June 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike ... Groll, File) (The Associated Press)

Unemployment rates rose in half of US states last month as more Americans launch job hunts

Energy Associated Press

Unemployment rates rose in 25 U.S. states last month, driven higher in many cases by more people who began looking for work but didn't immediately find jobs.

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Rates fell in 9 states and Washington, D.C. and were unchanged in 16 states. Employers, meanwhile, stepped up hiring in 37 states and cut jobs in 12 states. Hiring in Montana was flat.

West Virginia now has the highest unemployment rate nationwide, at 7.2 percent, up from 7.1 percent the previous month. It has overtaken Nevada, where the rate remained 7.1 percent.

The figures echo the national pattern last month. Employers added a robust 280,000 jobs, yet the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.5 percent from 5.4 percent. That can happen when more Americans start job hunts but aren't immediately hired.