- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island’s unemployment rate dropped to 9 percent in February and the number of jobs in the state increased by 1,500, state labor officials announced Thursday.

The February rate is two-tenths of a percentage point lower than January’s, and represents the lowest jobless rate in Rhode Island since October 2008.

The state’s Department of Labor and Training said the overall number of non-farm jobs in Rhode Island increased to 476,700 from a revised January employment estimate of 475,200. The increase is attributed to gains in the professional and business services sector.

Smaller employment increases were seen in the financial activities sector, according to the report.

The number of unemployed residents was 49,700, down 800 from revised January figures. February was the seventh consecutive month in which the number of unemployed residents fell. Over the year the number of unemployed Rhode Islanders is down by 3,600.

Meanwhile, the size of Rhode Island’s labor force was up by 2,600 to 552,900 in February, but down 6,600 from a year ago.

The U.S. unemployment rate for February was 6.7 percent, up one-tenth of a percentage point from January.

Rhode Island has long struggled with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. The state’s December jobless rate of 9.3 percent was the country’s highest. The state’s average 2013 rate, 9.5 percent, was the second highest in the U.S, after Nevada.

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