Unemployment rates fell in 41 states and the District of Columbia last month, reflecting a sharp drop in the nation's jobless rate just weeks before the presidential election.
Unemployment increased in six states, and three states showed no change, according to government figures released Friday.
The national unemployment rate was 7.8% in September. That was down from 8.1% in August and 9% in September 2011.
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia had rates higher than the national average last month.
Among key swing states in the presidential race, the jobless rate declined in nine, was unchanged in two and increased in one.
Friday's report was the last on state unemployment rates before the Nov. 6 election. The government will release national employment figures for October on Nov. 2.
The 12 presidential battleground states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Nevada and Iowa posted the largest declines, with the jobless rate falling to 11.8% from 12.1% in Nevada, and to 5.2% from 5.5% in Iowa.
The rate fell to 7% from 7.2% in pivotal swing state Ohio, to 8% from 8.2% in Colorado, and to 7.3% from 7.5% in Wisconsin.
Unemployment also dropped slightly in Florida, Michigan, New Mexico and North Carolina. It was unchanged in Virginia and New Hampshire. And it rose in Pennsylvania to 8.2% from 8.1%
Among all the states, South Carolina posted the largest decline, with unemployment falling to 9.1% from 9.6%. The rate also fell four-tenths of a percentage point in California, to 10.2%; in Hawaii, to 5.7%; in Louisiana, to 7%; and in Utah, to 5.4%.
Unemployment increased to 6.5% from 6.3% in Massachussetts. And besides Pennsylvania, it also rose slightly in West Virginia, Vermont, Oklahoma and Mississippi.
Overall, Nevada continued to have the highest unemployment rate, at 11.8%, followed by Rhode Island, at 10.5%, and California's 10.2%.
Nevada's rate has been 10% or higher since February 2009. It peaked at 14% in October 2010.
North Dakota, which is benefiting from an oil boom, continued to have the lowest rate, at 3%. Its rate has been below 4% since March 2010. Regionally, the West had the highest unemployment rate last month, 9.1%, and the Midwest the lowest, 7.4%.
Employment increased in 35 states and the District of Columbia and decreased in 15 states in September.
States with the largest month-over-month increases in employment were:
Texas, up 21,000.
Pennsylvania, up 17,800.
District of Columbia, up 14,200.
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