COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The unemployment rate in Ohio dropped for the eighth consecutive month to its lowest point since November 2008 despite non-farm payrolls decreasing by 9,500, and the state expects the job market to continue to strengthen, officials said Friday.
Seasonally adjusted joblessness fell slightly from 7.6 percent in February to 7.5 percent in March, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said. Nationally, the unemployment rate for March was 8.2 percent, down from February's 8.3 percent.
The number of unemployed Ohio workers decreased by about 5,000, from 443,000 in February to 438,000 in March. Over the past year, the number of jobless workers decreased by about 73,000.
The drop was welcome news for residents in the Buckeye State, where the jobless rate peaked at 10.6 percent in late 2009 and early 2010.
"We do expect the economy to continue to slowly improve and the job markets continue to strengthen," Job and Family Services spokesman Benjamin Johnson said.
But the state also had noteworthy job losses, especially in the leisure and hospitality, construction and educational and health services categories. Its decline of 9,500 was the largest among the 20 states that lost jobs last month, followed by New Jersey's loss of 8,600 positions and Wisconsin's 4,500.
Notable increases in manufacturing and health care employment in recent months are helping to drive recovery in Ohio, Johnson said.
The state saw gains of about 4,600 jobs in March in manufacturing, and growth in that sector could have ripple effects because it generates others types of work, such as in logistics and transportation, Johnson said.
"There are a lot of other jobs that are fed by a strong manufacturing economy," Johnson said.
The state also gained 6,300 in the trade, transportation and utilities industries in March, more than half of which were in the retail category.