The unemployment rate dropped in the District, Maryland and Virginia in October, the Labor Department reported Tuesday, with all three jurisdictions seeing their greatest job growth in the professional services sector.

The report was strongest for Maryland, where the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, from 6.9 percent, and 14,000 jobs were added. The state added more jobs in the private sector than in any one-month period since 1996.

The sector that contributed most to Maryland’s job growth was professional services, which added 3,900 positions in October. The retail industry and the leisure and hospitality sector also made gains, each adding 3,700 jobs.

In Virginia, the jobless rate ticked down to 5.7 percent, from 5.9 percent, but the state lost 600 jobs.

Three industries — professional services, financial activities, and retail and trade — added jobs in the commonwealth in October. Those areas gained 3,600 positions, 200 positions and 1,100 positions, respectively. All other sectors remained unchanged or shed jobs. The biggest decrease came from the government sector, which lost 1,400 jobs.

“These economies are running at a different speed,” said Stephen S. Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. “Virginia was outdoing Maryland, and now Maryland’s catching up.”

The District added 1,500 jobs, and its unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, from 8.7 percent, the lowest level since January 2009. The largest gains were in the professional services sector, which added 900 jobs in October.

After slipping from a 22-year high in September, the District’s construction employment rose to 14,100 jobs, from 13,500.

Jobless rates in Maryland and Virginia are significantly lower than the national unemployment rate, which ticked up to 7.9 percent in October. Although the District’s rate remains higher, it has fallen by 1.8 percentage points in the past 12 months, a larger drop than all but one state, Nevada.

“Even though it’s a mildly encouraging month, compared to where the recovery needs to be, it’s still pretty slow,” said James Bohnaker, associate economist with Moody’s Analytics.

Still, Fuller said that the growth of private-sector jobs in all three areas is a positive sign.

“The private sector is actually stronger or a little less vulnerable to changes in federal spending than we’ve been thinking,” Fuller said.

Unemployment rates dropped in 37 states and rose in seven. Rates were unchanged in six states. The highest jobless rate, 11.5 percent, was recorded in Nevada. North Dakota reported the lowest rate, 3.1 percent, and has had the nation’s lowest unemployment rate every month since March 2009.