Florida's unemployment rate continued to ease, dropping 0.1 percentage point in September to 8.7 percent.  While that's 1.7 percent lower than the jobless rate one year ago, it remains higher than the 7.8 percent rate nationally.

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, 808,000 Floridians remain unemployed out of a labor force of 9,300,000.

The number of jobs in the state was up 63,500 over the past year, an increase of 0.9 percent from September 2011. Nationally, the number of jobs was up 1.4 percent over the year.

Overall, the U.S. Labor Department says rates fell in 41 states last month, rose in six and were unchanged in three. The national unemployment rate dropped in September to 7.8 percent, the lowest level since President Barack Obama's first month in office

The unemployment rate dropped in Ohio,  Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina -- all considered swing states in the presidential election just 18 days away.

Many key states are facing high unemployment. The rate was 11.8 percent in Nevada and 9.6 percent in North Carolina.

Closer to home, the news was even better.  Duval County's rate fell 0.8 percent in one month and is 1.9 percent lower than September 2011.  Several other Northeast Florida counties also saw big year-to-year drops, their September 2012 rates saw either modest declines or stayed the same (See table at bottom of story for individual county rates.)

The declines in Florida and other swing states could help Obama at a critical time, with polls showing GOP challenger Mitt Romney gaining momentum with voters.

Unemployment and job creation are not only part of the presidential race, but the centerpiece of Florida Gov. Rick Scott's administration and future political ambitions. The first-term Republican governor came into office on a pledge of creating 700,000 new jobs during his first term.

"These numbers tell us two things," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday. "We still have more work to do to grow our economy and we are heading in the right direction."

Romney, meanwhile, has promised he'd create 12 million jobs during his first term if elected.

UNEMPLOYMENT RATESeptember 2012August 2012   September 2011
Alachua County6.8%7.0%8.0%
Baker County7.6%7.6%10.2%
Bradford County7.2%7.2%8.9%
Clay County7.6%7.7%9.3%
Columbia County8.0%8.2%9.9%
Duval County8.7%9.5%10.6%
Flagler County11.9%12.3%14.5%
Nassau County7.7%7.8%9.8%
Putnam County6.8%6.8%12.0%
St. Johns County6.8%6.8%8.8%
Union County7.1%7.3%8.4%