While the national unemployment rate has fallen to 8.5 percent, joblessness is a hot topic in most regions of the country this election year. The Labor Department released new data Tuesday on state unemployment rates. Here are rates for states with upcoming Republican caucus and primary contests:
12.6 percent - The state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, though the rate was down more than 2 percentage points compared with a year ago.
9.9 percent - A significant change from an unemployment rate of 12 percent a year ago.
9.3 percent - A drop of nearly 2 percentage points compared with a year earlier.
7 percent - A half a percentage point lower than a year ago.
7.9 percent - A drop of one point compared to a year ago.
5.7 percent - A drop of more than a point from a year ago.
8.7 percent - A drop of more than percentage point compared with a year ago.
The data reflects the slowly improving jobs picture in the country. Forty-six states registered unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, while four states and the District of Columbia experienced increases.
In a positive sign most of the job gains came from employers adding jobs rather than workers falling out of the labor force (as in people not looking for work because they don't think there is any).
Full report HERE.