- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Preliminary estimates show Massachusetts gained more than 8,000 jobs in March while the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent from 6.5 percent the previous month, the state office of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday.

The U.S. Labor Department had previously reported the national unemployment rate stood at 6.7 percent in March.

In addition to the estimated increase of 8,100 jobs in Massachusetts last month, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised its February estimates to show a net gain of 5,500 jobs in February, up from the previous estimate of 3,800 jobs.

State officials are pointing to a net gain of 50,400 jobs in the past 12 months.

After remaining below the national unemployment rate for more than six years, the jobless rate in Massachusetts crept up to and surpassed the national rate in November, January and February. State officials said the increase might have been a reflection of more people feeling confident enough about the economy to re-enter the workforce.

Since November, the rate has fallen back from 7.1 percent to the 6.3 percent reported in March.

The unemployment rate and the overall jobs figures are calculated using two different surveys.

MassBenchmarks, a journal of the state’s economy published by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts, said in a February report that job growth in the state in 2013 appeared to have been stronger than the nation as a whole.

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