Unemployment fell in more than half of the nation's largest cities in October while rising in nearly a third, offering a mixed outlook for hiring.

The jobless rate dropped in 200 of the 372 largest metro areas in October, compared to the previous month, the Labor Department said Tuesday. It rose in 108 and remained the same in 64.

That's the fewest areas showing improvement since July. In September, unemployment fell in 321 metro areas and rose in only 31.

There were some positive signs: Ten metro areas reported jobless rates of 15 percent or higher — eight of them in California. That's down from 13 in September and 17 in July.

And while 102 areas reported unemployment rates of at least 10 percent, that's down from 124 cities in August.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate rose in November to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent the previous month, according to a report last week from the Labor Department. The metro data lags behind the national data by several weeks.

The industrial Midwest saw the most improvement in October, said Steve Cochrane, a regional economist at Moody's Analytics.

Most of the cities with the biggest monthly drops in unemployment were in the Midwest, Cochrane said, including Rockford, Ill.; Toledo, Ohio; Sandusky, Ohio; and Bloomington, Ind.

Factories have boosted hiring for most of the year and analysts expect that trend to continue at a modest pace, even with the November employment report showing declines in manufacturing jobs.

The Institute for Supply Management, a private trade group, said last week that its survey of manufacturing companies found that they are hiring more workers.

The cities with the largest annual drops in unemployment also have significant manufacturing operations. In Elkhart-Goshen, Ind., the unemployment fell to 12.9 percent in October from 15.7 percent in October 2009. Hickory, N.C. and its surrounding area also saw a sharp drop, to 11.7 percent in October from 14.5 percent a year earlier.

Bismarck, N.D. had the lowest unemployment rate in the country, at 2.7 percent. Fargo, N.D. and Grand Forks N.D. were the next lowest, both at 3.2 percent, followed by Lincoln, Neb., at 3.8 percent.

El Centro, Calif. and Yuma, Ariz. recorded the highest jobless rates, of 29.3 percent and 26.7 percent, respectively. The two areas are adjacent to each other and include large numbers of seasonal agriculture workers.