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Where jobless rate is falling fastest

WASHINGTON - The national jobless rate has been stuck above 9.5 percent for more than a year, yet some states have made strides.

WASHINGTON - The national jobless rate has been stuck above 9.5 percent for more than a year, yet some states have made strides.

Two states with little else in common - New Hampshire and Alabama - have seen the steepest drops in unemployment in the 12 months that ended in November.

New Hampshire added jobs in a broad range of industries, including manufacturing, education and health care, and leisure and hospitality. The state's 5.4 percent unemployment rate is fourth-lowest in the country, the Labor Department said Friday in a report on state unemployment. A year ago, its rate was 6.9 percent.

Alabama is benefiting from a growing automotive manufacturing base. It still has an unemployment rate of 9 percent, though that is down sharply from 10.9 percent in November 2009.

Reports issued this week show that the November rate fell in Pennsylvania, to 8.6 percent from 8.8 percent, and stayed at 9.2 percent in New Jersey.

New Hampshire's growth means it has nearly regained all the jobs it lost during the downturn, said Dennis Delay, an economist at the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy, a think tank. The nation as a whole has generated about one million net jobs in the last year, after losing nearly 8.4 million in 2008 and 2009.

Delay credits a variety of factors, including the state's low tax burden - it has no income or sales tax - and the Obama administration's stimulus package.

Alabama, meanwhile, has benefited from higher auto production as U.S. auto sales have recovered since the recession. Auto sales rose 17 percent in November compared with a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp.

Nationwide, unemployment rates rose in 21 states last month, the Labor Department said, the highest number to report an increase since August.

Unemployment rates fell in 15 states in November and remained the same in 14 states. That's the fewest to see a drop in unemployment since August.

Georgia and Idaho endured the largest increases in unemployment. Georgia's rate rose to 10.1 percent from 9.8 percent. Idaho's jumped to 9.4 percent from 9.1 percent.

Michigan and Pennsylvania saw the biggest declines in unemployment last month. Michigan's rate fell to 12.4 percent from 12.8 percent.

Despite its decline, Michigan still has the nation's second-highest unemployment rate. Nevada has the highest rate at 14.3 percent.

North Dakota reported the lowest rate, at 3.8 percent, in November. South Dakota and Nebraska have the next lowest, at 4.5 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.