WASHINGTON – Unemployment fell in more than 85 percent of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas in September, a sharp improvement from August.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the jobless rate dropped in 321 of 372 metro areas, while remaining the same in 20 and rising in 31. That compares to 230 metro areas that saw their rates fall in August and is the largest number of areas reporting improvement since April.

Thirteen cities, nine of them in California, reported jobless rates of 15 percent or above, up from 12 cities in August. But the number of cities reporting unemployment above 10 percent fell steeply to 104, down from 124 in August and the lowest number since the recession ended in June 2009.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in September, the same as August. But the national data is adjusted for seasonal changes, such as farms hiring workers for harvests, or school employees returning to work.

Excluding those adjustments, the national jobless rate dropped to 9.2 percent in September from 9.5 percent in August.