updated 10/28/2009 3:46:14 PM ET 2009-10-28T19:46:14

The unemployment rate fell in September in most metro areas, although that's largely because more people gave up on job searches than found new work.

Major Market Indices

"The job market is not recovering at all yet," said Jim Diffley, regional economist for IHS Global Insight. "We're looking at another jobless recovery."

The September unemployment rate fell in 223 of 380 metro areas, or about 59 percent. The jobless rate rose in 123 metro areas, and was unchanged in 34.

Thirteen metro areas reported unemployment above 15 percent, down from 16 the previous month.

But in many cases the drops were resulted from discouraged workers leaving the labor force, perhaps to return to school. Once unemployed workers stop looking for jobs, they are no longer counted in the unemployment rate.

Several metro areas in Wisconsin illustrate the trend: the state's unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent from 8.4 percent in August. Three of its cities saw significant improvement in their unemployment rates: Wausau, Eau Claire and Fond du Lac.

But the work force shrunk in all three cities, while the state lost about 21,000 jobs.

The trend also was evident nationwide last month, when 600,000 people looking for work threw in the towel, the Labor Department said earlier this month.

The metro employment figures, issued Wednesday by the Labor Department, aren't adjusted for seasonal changes, so they tend to be volatile from month to month. And many of the changes in local unemployment rates in September resulted from seasonal trends.

For example, the areas that saw the sharpest drops were largely agricultural, including Grand Forks, N.D., Yakima, Wash., and Wenatchee-East Wenatchee, Wash., and likely benefited from harvest-related hiring.

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