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Va jobless rate falls to 5.7 pct in February

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Virginia's unemployment rate continues to fall and remains below the national average.

The Virginia Employment Commission says Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in February is the lowest rate since January 2009. That's down slightly from January and 0.6 percentage points lower than a year ago.

Virginia's jobless rate has been decreasing since peaking at 7.3 percent in January 2010, but had risen slightly from July through September last year.

Virginia's rate is still below the national average, which remained at 8.3 percent in February after five straight monthly declines.

The Labor Department says unemployment rates fell in most U.S. states last month as a growing economy encouraged employers across the country to step up hiring.

Rates declined in 29 states and rose in 8. Rates were unchanged in 13 states and the District of Columbia. The improvement was broader last month: rates fell in 45 states in January.

Still, job growth was more widespread than in previous months. Employers added jobs in 42 states, the most in almost a year.

Nationwide, the economy added 227,000 net jobs in February.

The state's unadjusted unemployment rate, which is not adjusted for seasonal employment, decreased slightly to 6.1 percent in February, below the rate last month and a year ago.

Virginia's nonfarm payroll employment increased by 9,000 jobs in February compared with the previous month.

Increases were seen in total government, private education and health services, leisure and hospitality, finance, manufacturing, and the information sector. The trade and transportation, miscellaneous services and mining industries experienced job losses. Employment in professional and business services was unchanged.

The state agency said 59,658 Virginians were receiving regular unemployment benefits in February. That's down from 63,508 in January and down from 68,976 in February 2011.