That doesn't guarantee a second term. But it's a reminder that the national rate, from a purely political standpoint, is not necessarily the be-all, end-all statistic.
Most of the states are led by Republican governors eager to highlight their progress in creating jobs. That complicates GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's claim that the economy has been so mismanaged that Mr. Obama deserves to be ousted.
In addition, a chief Romney criticism, that Mr. Obama is hindering energy production, is undermined by robust drilling for natural gas that's creating jobs and some wealthy landowners in two important states, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In Ohio, the quintessential toss-up state and practically a must-win for Mr. Romney, Republican Gov. John Kasich tries to finesse the political dilemma by saying jobs have increased despite Mr. Obama's policies.
"We fight like crazy to outperform the federal government," he said last week. "We have. We're down to 7.4 percent unemployment."
But Ohio can't continually buck the national trend, Mr. Kasich said, and he warned of a likely drop in job growth soon, largely because of gridlock and uncertainty in Washington.
"Rome is on fire and it's singeing places like Ohio," he said. "We'll go our own way, but the headwinds are kicking up again."
Some of the most politically contested states are struggling more than others.
Florida's unemployment rate has dropped steadily for nearly a year, but at 8.7 percent still tops the national average.
North Carolina's rate is even worse, and Nevada has the highest, 11.7 percent.
Seasonally adjusted rates as of April:
New Hampshire 5%
North Carolina 9.4%
U.S. average 8.2%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor
If Mr. Obama were to carry all the competitive states where the employment rate is brighter than the national average — Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Colorado — he would win re-election handily.
But if he loses the battleground states where the rate now exceeds 7 percent, an oft-cited threshold that may mean nothing, Mr. Romney would prevail because he would take Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, plus Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada.
Ohio's unemployment rate has fallen nine months in a row. That trend encourages Obama supporters, but it might have scant influence on the Nov. 6 election.
Several political scientists' studies have concluded that voters are less influenced by local and state economic trends than by national statistics.
In Ohio, Democrats are seizing on two giants of the industrial sector, energy and automobile production, to try to undercut Mr. Romney.
Republicans often accuse Mr. Obama of thwarting energy production.
But he largely has encouraged the dramatic growth in natural gas extraction taking place in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and a few other states.
Thousands of wells have been drilled in western Pennsylvania, helping the state lower its unemployment rate from 8.1 percent last August to 7.4 percent this spring.
Ohio trails Pennsylvania in gas well production. But fracking has boosted Ohio's sagging steel industry through its need for specialized pipes.
Hulking, largely silent steel plants in Youngstown, Canton, Lorain, and other towns are adding workers and production lines.
The revived U.S. auto industry also is demanding more steel, and there, too, Ohio Democrats see a point to raise against Mr. Romney.
The former Massachusetts governor opposed federal subsidies that propped up Chrysler and General Motors as they approached bankruptcy in early 2009.
"The rescue of the auto industry was the greatest contributor" to Ohio's recent economic growth, said former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat defeated by Mr. Kasich in the 2010 election. When Mr. Romney called it an unwarranted payoff to labor unions, Mr. Strickland said, he showed "a lack of understanding of this industry."
The impact on the presidential race is hard to predict.
In Elyria, west of Cleveland and not far from Lorain, college-educated people who once made $60,000 a year are begging for jobs as cooks making $9.50 an hour at Applebee's, said the restaurant's manager, Tony Tenorio.
"We get tons and tons of applications," said Mr. Tenorio, 30. He said Mr. Obama may struggle to win Ohio again this year.
"Talking with people, I don't think the working class has his back," Mr. Tenorio said.
Voters may be willing to give Mr. Romney a chance, he said.