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Pa. holds steady with unemployment

State posts the same 7.8 percent rate for the second straight month. California leads nation in job loss.

WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania joined 43 other states that lost jobs in April, as the recession took a further toll on U.S. workers.

California led the nation in job loss during the month, with employers slashing 63,700 positions. Next were: Texas, which saw 39,500 jobs vanish; Michigan, which lost 38,400 jobs; and Ohio, where payrolls fell 25,200, according to a U.S. Labor Department report issued Friday.

The job total in Pennsylvania fell by 17,300 compared to March and 161,900 over 12 months.

The few winners included Arkansas and Montana, followed by Florida — a dose of good news for a state that’s been battered by the housing collapse.

California’s unemployment rate dipped to 11 percent last month, fifth-highest in the country. Michigan’s jobless rate was the highest at 12.9 percent, followed by Oregon at 12 percent, South Carolina at 11.5 percent and Rhode Island at 11.1 percent.

Pennsylvania bucked the trend to higher unemployment rates, posting the same 7.8 percent rate for the second consecutive month. The national unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in April, up from 8.5 percent in March.

As the recession eats into sales and profits, companies have laid off workers and turned to other cost-cutting measures, such as holding down hours and freezing or trimming pay.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the U.S. has lost a net total of 5.7 million jobs.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and some economists hope the pace of layoffs will moderate as the recession eases its grip and likely ends later this year.

But even if employers reduce firings, the nationwide unemployment rate is expected to hit double digits by year’s end. Employers won’t be in any mood to ramp up hiring until they feel confident that any recovery has staying power, economists say.

On the hiring front, North Dakota again registered the nation’s lowest unemployment rate — 4 percent. It was followed by Nebraska with a 4.4 percent jobless rate, Wyoming at 4.5 percent and South Dakota with 4.8 percent.

In another bit of mildly encouraging news, the Labor Department reported that mass layoffs — job cuts of 50 or more by a single employer — dipped to 2,712 in April, from a record-high of 2,933 in March. Still, more than 271,000 workers were fired in last month’s cuts, more than double the total from April 2008.

Layoffs in manufacturing, construction and retail are common threads running through the states with the highest unemployment rates. Another thread: difficulties faced by South Carolina, Michigan, Rhode Island and other states, to lure new types of companies to help cushion the loss of manufacturing jobs and retrain laid-off factory workers for other kinds of employment.

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