AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas' unemployment rate fell for a sixth consecutive month to 7.1 percent in February, and monthly job growth exceeded 20,000 positions for the third straight time, according to state employment agency figures released Friday.

The state's jobless rate was down from 7.3 percent in January and has dropped a full percentage point since August, the Texas Workforce Commission said. February's unemployment rate is the lowest since March 2009.

The commission says Texas added 27,900 nonfarm jobs in February, and new claims for unemployment dropped 28 percent from January to 69,955.

"Texas' job growth over the past year points to a steady and sustained expansion of our state's economy," said commission chairman Tom Pauken.

Government was the leading industry in job gains with a jump of 12,800 positions in February, followed by trade, transportation and utilities at 8,300. Education and health services grew by 3,800 jobs for the sector's 19th straight month of job growth.

Eight of the 11 major job sectors gained positions, "indicating that many different skill sets are in demand," said commissioner for labor Ronny Congleton.

The national unemployment rate has been falling fast as well and is now 8.3 percent.

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 fell to 7.2 percent from 7.6 in January.

Midland had the only local unemployment rate below 4 percent for February at 3.8 percent. The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area had the highest at 11.1 percent, which is down from 11.7 percent in January. Local figures are not seasonally adjusted.

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

—Abilene 5.8 (6.2)

—Amarillo 5.0 (5.3)

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

—Beaumont-Port Arthur 10.2 (10.7)

—Brownsville-Harlingen 10.9 (11.5)

—College Station-Bryan 5.8 (6.3)

—Corpus Christi 6.8 (7.3)

—Dallas-Plano-Irving 7.1 (7.5)

—El Paso 9.6 (10.0)

—Fort Worth-Arlington 7.0 (7.3)

—Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown 7.2 (7.6)

—Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood 7.7 (8.3)

—Laredo 7.2 (7.6)

—Longview 6.1 (6.5)

—Lubbock 5.5 (5.9)

—McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 11.1 (11.7)

—Midland 3.8 (4.1)

—Odessa 4.5 (4.9)

—San Angelo 5.5 (5.9)

—San Antonio-New Braunfels 6.8 (7.3)

—Sherman-Denison 7.7 (8.0)

—Texarkana 7.1 (7.5)

—Tyler 7.2 (7.7)

—Victoria 6.2 (6.6)

—Waco 6.9 (7.3)

—Wichita Falls 6.4 (6.9)