AUSTIN (AP) – Texas’ unemployment rate fell to 7.3 percent in January, reaching its lowest mark in nearly three years on the strength of a big jump in the number of nonfarm jobs, according to data released Friday by the state employment agency.

The jobless rate is down from 7.4 percent in December, below the national figure of 8.3 percent, and has fallen in four consecutive months, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. The state’s unemployment rate was 8.5 percent as recently as September.

“We’re seeing substantial economic growth here in Texas,” said commission Chairman Tom Pauken.

Texas added 67,200 nonfarm jobs in January, and nine of the 11 major industries added jobs in January, led by professional and business services at 18,100 jobs, according to agency figures.

Leisure and hospitality was close behind at 17,100 jobs added, followed by trade, transportation and utilities at 15,700.

Private employers added 73,800 jobs over the month, according to the commission.

“When the majority of industries in Texas add jobs over the year, that’s a positive sign,” said commissioner Lonny Congleton.

Unemployment rates are adjusted for seasonal trends in hiring and firing, which most economists believe give a more accurate picture of the job market. Without the seasonal adjustment, the jobless rate in Texas increased to 7.6 percent from 7.1 percent in December.

Midland had by far the lowest local unemployment rate at 4.1 percent for January. The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area had the highest at 11.7 percent. Local figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The preliminary local jobless rates for January, with revised December numbers in parentheses, were:

–Abilene 6.2 (5.7)

–Amarillo 5.2 (4.8)

–Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos 6.5 (6.1)

–Beaumont-Port Arthur 10.7 (10.2)

–Brownsville-Harlingen 11.6 (10.9)

–College Station-Bryan 6.3 (5.7)

–Corpus Christi 7.3 (6.9)

–Dallas-Plano-Irving 7.5 (7.0)

–El Paso 10.0 (9.4)

–Fort Worth-Arlington 7.3 (6.8)

–Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown 7.6 (7.2)

–Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood 8.3 (7.6)

–Laredo 7.6 (6.9)

–Longview 6.5 (6.0)

–Lubbock 5.9 (5.4)

–McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 11.7 (11.1)

–Midland 4.1 (3.7)

–Odessa 4.9 (4.6)

–San Angelo 5.9 (5.4)

–San Antonio-New Braunfels 7.3 (6.7)

–Sherman-Denison 7.9 (7.4)

–Texarkana 7.5 (6.9)

–Tyler 7.7 (7.2)

–Victoria 6.7 (6.2)

–Waco 7.3 (6.7)

–Wichita Falls 6.9 (6.4)

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