WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — Unemployment rose in 18 U.S. states in August as many employers reported cutting jobs.

Weaker hiring obviously raises serious questions about the already sluggish job market.

Report if Unemployment by State Doesn’t Paint a Pretty Picture

A Jobs sign is seen on the US Chamber of Commerce Building in Washington, DC, on August 2, 2013. The US unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 7.4 percent in July as the economy added 162,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday in a weaker-than-expected report (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Unemployment rates fell in 17 state states and were unchanged in 15, the Labor Department said.

“The picture is decidedly mixed,” said Jim Diffley, chief US regional economist at IHS Global Insight. “We’re still optimistic about the improvement (in hiring), but it’s been slow.”

Only 29 states saw employers adding jobs. That’s the fewest since March. And 20 states reported job losses, the most since March.

Louisiana added 14,000 jobs, while Nevada’s payrolls increased by 11,200 positions. Still, Nevada’s unemployment rate remained 9.5 percent, the highest in the nation. And Louisiana’s was unchanged at 7 percent.

Illinois had the second-highest rate at 9.2 percent. North Dakota reported the lowest rate, at 3 percent.

Nationally, the economy added roughly 169,000 jobs in August, which is hardly enough to suggest the U.S. is back and roaring again. The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.3 percent.

More importantly, the ho-hum hiring gains mean that most states still have fewer jobs than they did when the recession began in December 2007. IHS Global Insight forecasts that only 18 states will have returned to their pre-recession job levels by the end of this year.

Overall, the United States still has 1.9 million fewer jobs than before the recession. Hiring has averaged just 155,000 a month since April. That’s down from an average of 205,000 in the first four months.

Here’s the Labor Department’s complete release:

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Featured image Getty Images.