Economic stress declined in March in nearly three-quarters of the nation's 3,141 counties, according to the Associated Press' monthly analysis of conditions around the country.

The gains were due to an improving job market in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast and a steadying of foreclosure rates across the Sun Belt.

In 38 of the 50 states, economic distress dipped or was unchanged from February, the Stress Index found.

Lake County, where unemployment is above 19 percent, was unchanged since December, when it was ranked as having the 14th worst economy.

But local officials expect that will improve as farming and tourism, the underpinnings of its economy, get under way.

"We have high fluctuation between summer and winter," noted Lake County Administrator Kelly Cox. Building permit requests increased last month, he said, a sign the economy may be picking up.

Nationwide, foreclosures worsened slightly. Bankruptcy rates did, too. But those declines were offset by a better jobs picture.

-- Staff and Associated Press