Nearly 150,000 U.S. workers lost their jobs in July as a result of 1,609 mass layoffs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday.

A total of 143,703 workers filed for unemployed insurance benefits last month. The number of mass layoff events -- those that involve at least 50 workers from a single employer -- decreased by 38 from June and the number of associated initial claims fell by 1,835.

A total of 307 mass layoffs were reported in the manufacturing sector, in seasonally adjusted figures, resulting in 33,381 initial claims, federal officials announced.

Mass layoffs have swept across the country over the past few years. During the 32-month span from December 2007 through July, a total of 63,461 mass layoffs  were reported, along with 6.3 million initial unemployment benefit claims. December 2007 was determined to be the start of a recession by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Fourteen of the 19 major industry sectors in the private economy reported over-the-year decreases in initial claims, with manufacturing leading the way. That sector reached a low of 64,2000 claims in July, Bureau of Labor statistics indicate.

California, meanwhile, recorded the highest number of initial claims in July, followed by New York, Michigan and Illinois.

Unemployment fell in only 18 states last month, a much smaller number than in recent months and a sign that jobs remain scarce nationwide.

The Labor Department says the jobless rate rose in 14 states and stayed the same in 18. That's a slowdown from the past three months when unemployment fell in more than 30 states.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.5 percent in July.

Still, 37 states saw job gains in July, an improvement from June and about the same as May

There were some bright spots in the Northeast. New York and Massachusetts reported strong job gains. Massachusetts added 19,200 private-sector jobs, the largest monthly gain in more than 20 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.