Washington, DC (AP) -- Unemployment rates fell or held steady last month in nine key swing states at the center of this year's presidential election.
Rates dropped in Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina. They were unchanged in New Hampshire and Virginia.
The declines could help President Barack Obama at a critical time. With just 18 days until Election Day, polls show GOP challenger Mitt Romney gaining momentum with voters.
Overall, the Labor Department says rates fell in 41 states last month, rose in six and were unchanged in three. The national unemployment rate dropped in September to 7.8 percent, the lowest level since Obama's first month in office.
Still, many key states are facing high unemployment. The rate was 11.8 percent in Nevada and 9.6 percent in North Carolina.