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Associated Press, Published December 06 2011

Bismarck, Fargo throw 1-2 punch for lowest unemployment rates in US

Unemployment rates fell in three-quarters of large U.S. cities in October, a sign that the job market is picking up broadly across the country.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that unemployment rates fell in 281 metro areas. They rose in 57 and were unchanged in 34. That's slightly better than September's showing and is the largest number of cities to report a drop since April.

The metro area unemployment data aren't adjusted for seasonal variations, such as hiring for the winter holidays. So they can be volatile.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate was unchanged in October at 9 percent. Last week, the government said the nationwide rate fell to 8.6 percent in November, the lowest level in 2 ½ years. Employers added about 120,000 net jobs. Still, a big reason the unemployment rate fell was because more people said they have given up on their job searches and dropped out of the work force.

Below are the cities with the highest and lowest rates:

Metro areas with highest and lowest unemployment rates

Figures in percentages

Lowest rates Oct. 2011

Bismarck 2.4

Fargo 3.1

Lincoln, Neb. 3.4

Burlington-South Burlington, Vt. 3.6

Grand Forks, N.D. 3.8

Sioux Falls, S.D. 3.9

Ames, Iowa 4.1

Rapid City, S.D. 4.1

Iowa City, Iowa 4.2

Mankato-North Mankato, Minn. 4.3

Highest rates

El Centro, Calif. 28.9

Yuma, Ariz. 26.3

Yuba City, Calif. 16.7

Merced, Calif. 15.8

Stockton, Calif. 15.7

Fresno, Calif. 15.7

Visalia-Porterville, Calif. 15.3

Modesto, Calif. 15.2

Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. 14.6

Palm Coast, Fla. 14