WASHINGTON – Unemployment rates fell in half of U.S. states last month, a sign that September’s pickup in hiring was felt around the country.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates dropped in 25 states, rose in 14 and stayed the same in 11. That’s an improvement from August, when unemployment rose in 26 states.

Nevada reported the highest unemployment rate for the 16th straight month. It stayed at 13.4 percent for the second month.

North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate, staying at 3.5 percent for the second straight month.

Maine’s unemployment rate fell by a 10th of a percentage point to 7.5 percent in September. Maine’s unemployment rate was 18th-lowest in the country, according to federal statistics.

State labor officials said Cumberland County had the state’s lowest unadjusted jobless rate, at 5.7 percent. The highest unemployment rate, 9.3 percent, was found in both Washington and Somerset counties.

Nationwide, employers added 103,000 net jobs in September, nearly double the number created in August. Maine gained 3,000 jobs between August and September.

Still, hiring remains sluggish. The national unemployment rate has been stuck near 9 percent for more than two years. Employers pulled back on hiring this spring after seeing less demand from consumers. Higher food and gas prices forced consumers to rein in spending.

Employers added an average of only 72,000 jobs per month in the past five months. That’s down from an average of 180,000 in the first four months of this year and far from what is needed to lower the unemployment rate.