CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- Nevada's jobless rate dropped to 9.6 percent in February, down from 11.8 percent a year ago and marking the biggest year-over-year decrease among states, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported Friday.
February's unemployment rate is the lowest since December 2008, said Bill Anderson, chief economist with the state agency.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said he was pleased with the "improving overall direction of the state's economy."
"Unemployment is trending down, jobs are moving in a positive direction and for the first time in more than a decade, women account for almost 46 percent of the total labor force," Sandoval said in a statement. "Many Nevadans, however, are still feeling the pain of our protracted recession and with 132,000 citizens among the unemployed, much work remains to be done."
The number of unemployed is a decrease of 600 from January and 31,200 from February 2012, the report said.
In Las Vegas, the unadjusted rate was 9.8 percent, down from 12.1 percent a year ago and 10.2 percent in January. The unemployment rate in the Reno-Sparks area fell to 10.1 percent, down from 12.2 percent in February 2012 and 10.5 percent the previous month.
Likewise, unemployment fell in Carson City to 10.7 percent, a more than 2 percentage point drop from last year.
Nationally, the seasonally adjusted national rate is 7.7 percent.
While the report was positive, Anderson said for the first time in six months the state lost jobs, with a seasonally adjusted decline of 5.500. Of those 4,700 were in the private sector, while 800 were government jobs.
Anderson explained that February typically brings a job burst of about 6,100 jobs from January.
"This year, however, just 600 jobs were added, resulting in the seasonally adjusted decline. Still, over-the-year jobs are up by 23,800," Anderson said.
Anderson said the retail industry cut payrolls more than expected in February, slashing 3,700 jobs — 2,000 more than normal.
Additionally, financial industry jobs fell by 1,400 in February. Leisure/hospitality lost 3,100 during the month, but Anderson noted that compared to a year ago, jobs in that sector for the first two months of the calendar year are up 10,000 over the same period in 2012.
On the plus side, Nevada's lucrative mining industry added 400 jobs during the month.