Virginia's unemployement rate falls

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia's unemployment rate fell slightly in May and remains below the national average.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May was 6 percent, slightly lower than April, the Virginia Employment Commission said Friday.

The state's unemployment rate has been trending down since peaking at 7.2 percent from December 2009 to February 2010. The national average for May was 9.1 percent.

Nonfarm payroll employment added 18,800 jobs in May, the fourth consecutive monthly increase. The largest increase was in the leisure and hospitality industry, which added seasonal jobs at theme parks, recreational facilities and resorts.

The agency said 52,934 Virginians were receiving regular unemployment benefits in May. That's down from 55,412 in April and down from 72,940 in May 2010.

Unemployment rates fell in fewer than half of U.S. states, a sign that job growth has slowed in many parts of the country.

The unemployment rates dropped in 24 states, the Labor Department said Friday. Rates rose in 13 states and Washington, D.C, and were flat in 13. That's a significant decline from April, when 39 states reported falling unemployment rates.

The changing trend in state unemployment rates reflect a weaker economy that has been hampered by high gas prices and lower factory output.

Nationally, employers added a net gain of only 54,000 jobs in May, compared to an average of 220,000 per month in the previous three months. The U.S. unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1 percent.

Only 22 states reported a net gain in jobs in May, while 27 states lost jobs. That's much worse than April, when 42 states gained jobs.