Eleven U.S. states reported healthy job gains in October, and the unemployment rate fell in seven, as hiring improved modestly nationwide. Thirty-four states reported little change.

The Labor Department says the biggest percentage jobs gains were in Montana, Louisiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, where hiring rose about 0.5 percent. California added the most with 31,200, followed by Michigan with 18,900.

The economy picked up in the fall even amid the contentious presidential election. Americans ramped up their shopping and applications for unemployment aid fell to a four-decade low, a sign layoffs are scarce.

That's prompted steady hiring, though it has fallen from last year's pace. Employers added 161,000 jobs nationwide in October, enough to reduce the unemployment rate over time. The rate slipped to 4.9 percent from 5 percent in September.