Jobs picture brightens across the country

WASHINGTON - Unemployment rates fell in nearly all large U.S. cities in September, a sign that recent jobs gains have been widespread.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that rates declined in 355 of the 372 metro areas, the most since April. The report also shows that nearly half of cities now have unemployment rates below 7 percent.

And the number of areas with unemployment rates above 10 percent dropped to 35. That's down from 84 a year ago.

Rates rose in September in only 11 cities and were unchanged in six.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September. It was the first time the rate has fallen below 8 percent since January 2009 - President Obama's first month in office.

Unlike the national numbers, the metro rates aren't adjusted for seasonal patterns. Much of the decline likely reflects school-related employees, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers, who returned to work.

The report on local unemployment rates comes a week before the presidential election. Many hard-hit cities in key swing states have seen their rates drop in the past year, although some still have rates well above the national level.

For example, the unemployment rate in Las Vegas was 11.5 percent last month. That's down from 14 percent a year ago.

In the Miami metro area, the rate fell to 8.4 percent last month, from 10.4 percent a year earlier.