Maine’s unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in February, little changed from 6.2 percent in January and down from 6.9 percent one year ago, marking the lowest it has been since October 2008.

The state fared better than the nation as a whole. The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent, slightly higher than the 6.6 percent rate in January and down from 7.7 percent one year ago. The New England unemployment rate was 6.4 percent, including a low of 3.7 percent in Vermont and a high of 9 percent in Rhode Island.

In Maine, the share of the population that was employed reached 61.5 percent, the highest since December 2008, and remained higher than the 58.8 percent national average for the 77th consecutive month. The number of unemployed in the state declined by 6,000 people over the year to 43,100.

The preliminary nonfarm payroll jobs estimate for February totaled 605,400, up 6,300 from one year ago, the Maine Department of Labor said.

Private-sector jobs were up 7,400, primarily in the retail trade, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, education and health care, and finance and insurance sectors.

Those gains were partially offset by a decline of 1,100 jobs in government.

The not-seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate was 7.0 percent in February, down from 8.0 percent one year ago. Not seasonally adjusted rates ranged from 5.2 percent in Cumberland County to 11.4 percent in Washington County. Rates tended to be lower than the statewide average in southern and central counties and higher than average in northern counties.

The unemployment rate was below the statewide average in all three metropolitan areas: Portland-South Portland-Biddeford (5.5 percent), Bangor (6.4 percent) and Lewiston-Auburn (6.3 percent).

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