Michigan's unemployment rate continued to move in the right direction in March, dropping to 8.5 percent from 8.8 percent in February.
The last time the state's jobless rate reached this level was in August 2008.
"During the first quarter of 2012, the number of unemployed in Michigan fell by 37,000," Rick Waclawek, director of the state's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement.
Payroll jobs in the state have increased by 57,000 or 1.4% since March 2011, with nearly all of the hiring occurring in manufacturing, professional and business services and education and health services.
Michigan's unemployment rate, which was once the highest in the nation, is now just a tad above the U.S. unemployment rate, which stood at 8.2% in March.
Michigan's jobless rate hit a peak of 14.2 percent in August 2009 and has been slowly declining since then. It is down 2 percentage points from March 2011, when the state had a 10.5 percent unemployment rate.
The rebound in Michigan's economy has been driven by the resurgence of the Detroit automakers, who have been hiring as they benefit from stronger than expected vehicle sales.
The improving job market is the latest sign of a strengthening state economy. While still relatively low, housing starts in southeast Michigan surged 47 percent during the first quarter from the year-ago period, according to Clarkston-based Housing Consultants.
And earlier this month, University of Michigan economist George Fulton raised his forecast for employment growth in the state to 54,300 positions, up from his previous estimate of 31,800 jobs.
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