**FILE** In this July 30, 2008 file photo, jobs brochures are seen on display at a state unemployment office in Sunnyvale, Calif. The government says Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008, the number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, the second straight weekly drop from a six-year high. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
(CBS/AP)-- Unemployment rates declined last month in more than half of the 372 largest U.S. cities, further evidence of steady improvement in the job market.
The Labor Department said Wednesday that rates fell in 201 metro areas. They rose in 116 and were unchanged in 55. And the number of cities with unemployment below 7 percent rose to 180 last month, up from 107 a year ago.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September. That was mostly because more Americans began searching for work but not all found jobs. Employers added 171,000 jobs in October and the previous two months were revised higher.
Unlike the national data, the metro unemployment rates are not adjusted for seasonal trends, such as the hiring of many part-time retail employees for the winter holidays. So they tend to be more volatile from month to month.
The number of areas with sharply higher unemployment is declining. Thirty-five metro areas had unemployment rates of 10 percent or above last month. That's the same as the previous month but down from 80 a year ago.
Bismarck, N.D. once again posted the lowest unemployment rate, at 2.2 percent. The city is benefiting from an oil and gas drilling boom.
Yuma, Ariz. and El Centro, Calif. recorded the highest unemployment rates, at 29.8 percent and 28.1 percent, respectively. Both cities include large numbers of migrant farm workers.