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Unemployment falls in 75 percent of U.S. states

WASHINGTON (AP) — An increase in hiring helped lower unemployment rates in 37 U.S. states last month, the latest indication that the job market is slowly healing.

Unemployment rates are now below 7 percent in 23 of the 50 states. The Labor Department says rates rose in seven states in October and were unchanged in six, including Illinois, which held at 8.8 percent.

South Carolina's rate fell from 9.1 percent to 8.6 percent, the biggest drop. The state gained 7,300 jobs, mostly in hotels, restaurants, education and health care, and government. Alaska and Wisconsin recorded the next biggest declines.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in October. But it has declined a full point in the past year. Employers added 171,000 jobs and hiring was stronger in August and September than first estimated.

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