CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a percentage point to 7 percent in March, a decline driven mostly by people leaving the labor force.
The number of unemployed West Virginians fell by 2,500 to 56,200 last month, according to preliminary monthly data for Workforce West Virginia.
While the number of employed state residents rose by 500 to 750,900 during the month, data showed 2,000 people left the state's labor force during the month.
The size of the state's labor force -- the number of people either working or actively seeking a job -- fell to 807,100 in March, down from 809,100 in February.
Since the unemployment rate is calculated by taking the number of employed residents and dividing it by the labor force, the decline in the labor force helped push the unemployment rate lower for the month.
The 7 percent unemployment rate is the lowest percentage in a year. Total employment of 750,900 was the highest level recorded since April 2009.
While the state's unemployment rate had fallen from a post-recession high of 8.5 percent in late 2010 to 7.0 percent last March, it began rising through the summer and hit 7.6 percent last August. The unemployment rate began inching back down again during the fall and winter months.
March's 7 percent state unemployment rate is six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent recorded during the month.
Data showed the total number of non-farm jobs increased by 400 during the month, with a gain of 500 jobs in private sector offset by a slight 100-job decline in government jobs.
The state's goods-producing sector saw an increase of 100 jobs in the month. Mining and timber jobs increased by 400, which was offset by a decline of 100 jobs in the construction sector and a decline of 200 jobs in the state's manufacturing sector.
The state's service sector saw an increase of 400 jobs.
The retail and wholesale trade sectors grew by 900 jobs, while the arts, entertainment and recreation sector grew by 500 jobs.
The accommodation and food service sector saw the greatest decline of the month, with payrolls declining by 800. The health care and social assistance sector also saw a decline of 600 jobs during the month.