Indiana's unemployment rate fell again in March, dropping below 6 percent for the first time since 2008.
The seasonally adjusted jobless rate dropped to 5.9 percent, down from 6.1 percent in February. The rate has fallen by 2 percentage points in the last 12 months, the third biggest decline in the nation.
"Indiana's unemployment rate is now below 6 percent for the first time since July of 2008," said Scott Sanders, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. "Our rate has dropped by 2 percentage points in one year, which is the third largest decline in the nation. The Hoosier labor force has grown by more than 25,000 in the first quarter of 2014 alone, which is also remarkable."
In March, joblessness fell in every major Northwest Indiana city except for Valparaiso, where it remained unchanged at 6.3 percent. The unemployment rate in the Gary metro was 8 percent, down from 8.7 percent, while it was 8.6 percent in the Michigan City metro, down from 9.4 percent in February.
Unemployment also declined in Illinois, dropping to 8.4 percent in March, as compared to 8.7 percent in February.
Indiana is tied with Wisconsin for the seventh highest unemployment rate out of the 12 U.S. Census Bureau-designated Midwestern states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Illinois ranked dead last in the Midwest.
Indiana added 3,200 jobs in the private sector in March. The biggest gains came in the leisure and hospitality, construction, and private education and health services sectors. Manufacturing, which historically has been central to Northwest Indiana's economy, added 300 new jobs statewide.
The state added 12,700 manufacturing jobs last year, leading the nation. Indiana has added 215,500 private-sector jobs since July 2009, which was the low point for employment during the recession.
More workers also have been returning to the workforce, which has grown by more than 25,000 during the first quarter of the year.