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States' Jobs Picture Improves: Behind the Numbers

In a sharp turnaround, most states saw their unemployment rates drop in September.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41 states saw their jobless figures decrease, and only six saw them rise. Three report no change at all, including the state with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, North Dakota, holding steady at three percent.

This is a big change from the month earlier, when most states — 26 — reported an increase in unemployment.

The states with the highest unemployment continue to be Nevada (11.8 percent), Rhode Island (10.5 percent), and California (10.2 percent), but all three figures were down from the month before.

California is adding jobs faster than the national average, and the Golden State has added the most jobs in the country in a year — 262,000. (Read More: Weekly Jobless Claims Drop Proves to Be Short-Lived.)

Hiring is happening at companies large and small.

"We have six employees and we're hiring two more right now," said Andy Moeck, CEO of mobile gaming startup MOEO in Santa Monica, Calif.

He said he's offering similar pay to what he might have offered a few years ago, "but it's harder to find all the applicants with the skill set that we need." Competition has heated up in California for programmers, and Moeck is fielding resumes from outside the state.

As for the election, Moeck said he's too busy trying to build a business to think about politics. (Read More: Election is Bumming Out Small Businesses.)

"When we decide we're going to hire someone or not hire someone or grow our business, there's absolutely zero input into that as to who's holding office," he said. "We start companies because that's what we do."

A few blocks away at a Santa Monica hotel, Chevron held a job fair for workers willing to move to Bakersfield to join the resurging oil boom there.

"You have to go where the jobs are," said civil engineer Christopher Rowda. "You have to follow the work."

The picture in some states shows there is still a lot of work to be done, especially for the long-term unemployed. Michigan, a key swing state in the election, saw the largest drop in total jobs in September, 13,000 jobs. Coming in second, another key swing state, Ohio, with 12,800 job losses in a month (though total employment in the Buckeye State has grown 88,000 in a year).

Jeff Jacobs, an architect in Columbus, has been out of full-time work for nearly five years.

"Right now I'm applying for temporary holiday work like department stores," he said.

Jacobs searches Craigslist daily for openings in architecture, hoping to get back into that field of work. "In Columbus there aren't many posted ads, with some exceptions, and believe me, I've already applied to them."

Like many Americans, Jacobs is getting by on his savings and by living frugally. He wants only one thing out of this election — jobs. (Read More: Top Destination States for Jobs.)

"Honestly, I don't give a damn about the deficit. ...We need to get everyone back to work, including me. Especially me," he said.

—By CNBC's Jane Wells
@janewells

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