DENVER (AP) – The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.1 percent in March from February’s rate of 7.2 percent.

The department said Friday the strongest private sector job gains were in professional and business services, education and health services and construction. The biggest declines were in trade, transportation and utilities, financial activities and manufacturing.

Employers in Colorado reported 500 more nonfarm payroll jobs from February to March for a total of 2.35 million jobs. The state’s unemployment rate was 8.2 percent this time last year.

The national unemployment rate decreased to 7.6 percent in March from 7.7 percent in February.

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