The nation's unemployment rate is a political hot potato these days, given that the presidential election is just 37 days away.

The national rate stands at 8.1 percent, which represents a decrease from 8.3 percent, so the Obama administration can claim that things are headed in the right direction. On the other hand, the rate has been over 8 percent for 43 straight months, so it is easy for the Romney camp to argue that it is unacceptable, which it is

But locally, at least, the employment situation is looking better.

According to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Defiance area's county unemployment rates for August were all below the national rate, some significantly so.

Putnam County's, for example, dropped from 5.7 percent in July to 5.2 percent in August while Paulding County's went from 6.9 percent to 6.4 percent and Henry County's decreased from 7.4 percent to 6.5 percent.

The rates for Defiance and Fulton counties were both below 7 percent while Williams was the only one above that amount, making it the only area county above the statewide average of 7.2 percent for August.

These numbers are still too high and don't take into account those who've given up looking for work, but they do represent improvement.

Early voting starts

Early voting gets started for most Ohio voters on Tuesday, 35 days before Election Day.

This has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks with Secretary of State Jon Husted eliminating some early voting hours to ensure uniformity among Ohio's 88 counties. This is the subject of a legal challenge.

There are some who will say this hurts some Ohioans because it takes away opportunities to vote. However, the opportunities that remain weren't even available that long ago when voting was confined to Election Day.

We reiterate what we essentially wrote in this space before -- that voting opportunities are abundant in Ohio.

Voters will get their first chance to exercise those opportunities on Tuesday, and many likely will take advantage of them.

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