Maine’s unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent in April, down from 5.9 percent in March and 6.8 percent a year ago.

The state’s unemployment rate remained below the 6.3 percent rate nationally. The U.S. unemployment rate in April fell from 6.7 percent in March and 7.5 percent a year ago.

The Maine unemployment rate was the lowest since September 2008. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the number of unemployed declined 7,400 over the year to 40,500.

The share of the population that is employed remained at 61.8 percent, well above the U.S. average of 58.9 percent. April marked the 79th consecutive month the employment to population ratio was above the national average.

The drop in the unemployment rate was due to lower labor force participation, rather than rising employment, the Maine Department of Labor said. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively seeking jobs.

Maine’s drop in unemployment mirrored trends across the nation. Forty-three states had unemployment rate decreases, two states had increases, and five states and the District of Columbia had no change, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In New England, the unemployment rate averaged 6.1 percent. Rates for other states ranged from 3.3 percent in Vermont to 8.3 percent in Rhode Island.

The preliminary nonfarm payroll jobs estimate for April of 605,100 is up 5,600 from one year ago. Private sector jobs were up 6,600, primarily in the retail trade, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, education and health care, and financial activities sectors. Those gains were partially offset by a decline of 1,000 government jobs.

The non-seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate was 5.9 percent in April, down from 6.9 percent one year ago. Not seasonally adjusted rates ranged from 4.5 percent in Cumberland County to 10.0 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 at 4.6 percent, Lewiston-Auburn at 5.5 percent and Bangor at 5.7 percent.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com

Twitter: @JessicaHallPPH