AUGUSTA — Maine’s labor department says the state’s unemployment rate held steady at 4 percent in November.

The state Department of Labor says the figure was the same for October, and down slightly from 4.1 percent a year ago. The number of unemployed people was also little changed over the course of the year at 27,500 amid modest improvement in the nation’s labor market.

The nationwide unemployment rate for the month was 4.6 percent, a nine-year low and down from 4.9 percent in October and 5 percent a year ago.

New England’s unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, with a low of 2.7 percent in New Hampshire – along with South Dakota the lowest in the nation – and a high of 5.3 percent in Rhode Island.

Employers stepped up their hiring in nine U.S. states last month and cut jobs in two.

Unemployment rates fell sharply in 18 states and were little changed in 32 states.

Florida reported the largest job gain in November, adding 29,600 jobs, followed by Indiana, which gained 13,100 jobs, and South Carolina, with 12,500.

The largest drops in unemployment rates last month occurred in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Missouri, each of which saw a decline of 0.4 percent.

Nationwide, employers added 178,000 jobs.

Much of the decline in the jobless rate occurred because more Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.

The government only considers people unemployed if they are actively hunting for jobs.

While the United States has added 15.4 million jobs since hiring bottomed out in February 2010, a significant reason the jobless rate has fallen since then has been because the number of people working or looking for work has fallen.

Alaska and New Mexico had the highest rates, at 6.8 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively.

Two states lost a significant number of jobs last month: Virginia, which shed 13,600, and Colorado, which lost 12,500.