COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's unemployment rate dropped in March to 6.1 percent, its lowest level in six years, according to state job figures released Friday.
The seasonally adjusted rate last month fell from 6.5 percent in February, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said. It's the state's lowest jobless rate since April 2008.
Ohio's rate is below the national rate, which was 6.7 percent in both February and March.
Job and Family Services spokesman Ben Johnson said the state's unemployment rate fell because more people were working and the size of the labor force shrank.
"It was not exclusively one or the other," Johnson said in an interview.
Gov. John Kasich's presumptive Democratic rival in the gubernatorial election claimed the decline in the unemployment rate could be attributed to Ohioans giving up on their job search.
"This jobs report demonstrates that Governor Kasich's policies only work for a select few," Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said in a statement.
Employment in the state has been growing over the last 12 months, while the size of the labor force has been relatively stagnant, Johnson said. Last month, the state added 12,000 jobs, while the labor force dropped by about 11,000.
Johnson said there's no way to know right now whether the decrease is indicative of a larger issue or whether it's a one-month anomaly.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols praised the rate. "It's encouraging to see things going in the right direction and the state getting back on track, but we have a lot more work still to do," he said in a statement.
The state says Ohio's nonfarm wage and salary employment increased 600 over the month, from 5,282,300 in February to 5,282,900 in March.
About 4,800 jobs were added in the leisure and hospitality industry. Gains in construction jobs were offset in part by losses in manufacturing, mining and logging sectors. Professional and business services added 3,200 jobs, while the educational and health services sector saw an increase of 2,400.
The state had a loss of 4,900 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. Government employment also shed 3,200 positions.
The number of unemployed has decreased by 68,000 in the past 12 months to 353,000 from 421,000.