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Unemployment rates fall in most swing states. Why that may not help Obama.

Of nine battleground states, unemployment rates dropped in seven and held steady in two, according to the state-by-state report for September. It's good news for Obama, but he may not be able to capitalize on it.

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In this April 2012 photo, President Barack Obama speaks at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. Unemployment rates fell or held steady in September in all 9 US swing states that are the focus of both presidential campaigns with less than three weeks left until election day.

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File

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The state-by-state unemployment numbers, released Friday, held some encouraging news for President Obama and his reelection prospects, with the jobless rate dropping in September in seven of nine electoral battleground states and rising in none. But because the rate remains relatively high in many swing states, it remains to be seen if Mr. Obama can capitalize on the improvement.

Nationally, unemployment rates fell in 41 states and the District of Columbia from August to September, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported, in its last look at state joblessness before the Nov. 6 election. Six states saw their unemployment rates rise, and three registered no change.

“Obviously if you are an incumbent president, you will welcome any good news, and this is good news just two weeks before the election,” says Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “But, and this is a big but, the vast majority of voters have already decided, so a small tick-down in their state unemployment rate is not going to change their minds.”

The issue of jobs, or lack of jobs, has been a central theme of Mr. Obama's Republican rival, Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney is campaigning hard on the message that he, as a former corporate CEO, can get the US economy humming again. Obama has been trying to highlight the economic progress made since the very steep downturn that gripped the nation when he took office in 2009.

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