NEW YORK (Reuters) - The unemployment rate fell last month in most states, including those considered undecided in the presidential election, data from the Labor Department showed on Friday.
Stubbornly high unemployment is a key issue in the November 6 election. The contest between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is heating up in states where polls suggest voters are undecided.
Overall, regional and state unemployment rates were generally lower in September. Jobless rates fell in 41 states and the District of Columbia from August, rose in six and were unchanged in three states.
Compared with a year ago, jobless rates fell in 44 states and the District of Columbia and rose in six.
“Overall, following last month’s rather negative report, this one is definitely very encouraging,” said Michael Dolega, an economist at TD Bank Group. “Specifically, the statistically significant declines across the board and employment gains.”
In swing-state Florida, the jobless rate fell to 8.7 percent from 8.8 percent.
“Florida basically is gaining on the rebound in housing; it’s created 4,000 jobs in construction,” said Dolega. “Construction has been shedding jobs, so this is a nice turn around for them.”
The national unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest since President Obama took office nearly four years ago.
But the slow pace of economic growth and high level of unemployment have been a focal point of the campaigns. Of the eleven states where the polls are currently tight, about half had unemployment rates above the national average.
Among swing states, Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in the country at 11.8 percent, down from 12.1 percent in August. In Colorado, the jobless rate fell to 8 percent in September from 8.2 percent the previous month.
Unemployment fell in eight other such states, with North Carolina at 9.6 percent and Wisconsin down to 7.3 percent. Virginia and New Hampshire held steady.
Pennsylvania was the only swing state to show an increase in its jobless rate, which rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1. However, there were some positive signs in the state as jobs increased by 17,800 during the month.
Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Dan Grebler