The Massachusetts unemployment rate continued a first-quarter plummet in March, dropping to 6.3 percent as the state packed on 8,100 jobs.
Since last October the unemployment rate has dropped nearly a full percentage point. Prior to last November, there had not been marked shifts in the state's jobless rate for nearly three years, with the jobless rate rising and falling and staying within a range of 6.7 percent and 7.7 percent.
"We have certainly seen positive fluctuation in greater measure than we have in the past," Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rachel Kaprielian told the News Service.
Asked what the jobs numbers indicate about the future, Kaprielian said, "We seem to be in a pretty good clip of recovery and economic growth."
The February unemployment rate was 6.5 percent and the state added 5,500 jobs that month, according to numbers released Thursday that revised the February jobs gains upward by 1,700 jobs.
The 0.9-point drop in the unemployment rate between last fall and the early spring is just shy of the full point 12-month descent that began at 8.7 percent in January 2010 and fell to 7.7 percent in January 2011. The January 2010 jobless rate marked state's highest jobless rate during the last recession.
As employers have expressed cautious optimism in surveys, Kaprielian said officials are "still guarded" about the recovery.
Prediction: Rate will drop to 5.2 percent by 2017
In November, the New England Economic Project predicted the Bay State's unemployment rate would drop slowly to 5.2 percent at the beginning of 2017.
The 3,285,800 residents employed this March is on par with the number employed in May 2008.
Education and health services had the biggest employment surge
The education and health services sector experienced the biggest employment surge, gaining 5,700 jobs in March, while professional, scientific and business services shed 2,100 jobs. The national unemployment in March was 6.7 percent.
Though stalled in a procedural dispute, the House and Senate have both put forward plans to reform the unemployment insurance system and raise the minimum wage.
Patrick's proposal for job growth
Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed an economic development bill offering "global entrepreneur in residence" visas for foreigners who want to do business in Massachusetts, and doing away with non-compete clauses in employment contracts.
"When you have growth and you have positive trends there's always another frontier," said Kaprielian, who said it is early going in the discussion about Patrick's proposals.