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In Minnesota, where unemployment fell to 5.7 percent in December, the lowest number since September 2008, the Department of Employment and Economic Development said the biggest job winners came from the government sector along with professional and business services, education and health care and manufacturing, among others.

In Utah, where unemployment dropped to 6 percent in December, gains were reported statewide in all job sectors except government. Economist Mark Knold of the state’s Department of Workforce Services told the Deseret News that he expected that sector to also improve.

“It is anticipated that future revisions will ultimately move government to the positive side of the ledger,” Mr. Knold told the Salt Lake City paper. “These government gains will show up in education - kindergarten through universities.”

Across the nation, 45 states reported rises in revenue in 2011, according to data from the Rockefeller Institute of Government, although closing the recession-era gaps marked by huge losses over the past few years may dim the fiscal picture for many.

“It’s a very unsettling time,” said Michigan State’s Mr. Roberts. “Some of the recent numbers we are seeing are positive. On the other hand, the World Bank is calling for a terrible year and has lowered its real GDP forecast for all Western democracies. I’m not sure they are right, and reasonable people are not yet convinced. There is still some reason to be concerned, but there is also reason to be upbeat.”