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Unemployment rates fell in 45 states and the District of Columbia inNovember, reflecting a sharp drop in the national jobless rate despiteSuperstorm Sandy and the budget standoff in Washington.

Unemployment was unchanged in five states, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

Thejobless rate fell dramatically in several states, with the largestdeclines in Louisiana and Nevada. The rate dropped to 5.8% from 6.6% inLouisiana and to 10.8% from 11.5% in Nevada.

Nevada continued tohave the highest unemployment rate at 10.8%, followed by Rhode Island at10.4%. North Dakota, which is making the most of an oil boom, continuedto have the lowest rate at 3.1%

Unemployment also declined to 7.6% from 8.2% in Tennessee, to 7.5% from 8.1% in Alabama, and to 8.5% from 9% in Mississippi.

Significantdrops in unemployment rates don't always indicate strong job growth.The national unemployment rate fell to 7.7% from 7.9% last month as350,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force, which includes thoseemployed and looking for work, BLS reported earlier this month.

While some of those were discouraged workers who gave up jobsearches, many Baby Boomers are retiring, slowing the growth of thelabor force and allowing the unemployment rate to fall even with modestjob gains.

Since August, for example, the economy has added anaverage 139,000 jobs a month but the unemployment rate has declined to7.7% from 8.1%. Traditionally, job gains of at least 200,000 a monthhave been needed to quickly lower unemployment.

TheFederal Reserve last week agreed to continue its easy-money policies,with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke noting the labor market is "a bit weaker"than the jobless rate suggests.

On Thursday, thegovernment revised up its estimate of economic growth in the thirdquarter to 3.1% from 2.7%, noting exports and consumer spending werestronger than initially believed. And while consumer sentiment hasweakened during federal budget battles, the housing market continues torebound, and the government reported Friday that personal spending rose solidly in November.

Businesses, however, have tempered hiring and investment amiduncertainty about the package of year-end spending cuts and tax hikesknown as the fiscal cliff. It could push the U.S. back into recession ifCongress and the White House can't agree on a plan to soften itsimpact. Still, a closely-watched measure of capital spending increasedsharply in November, the government reported Friday.

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