BOISE -- The Idaho Department of Labor says the state's unemployment rate has dropped to 8 percent for February, the seventh straight monthly decline and the lowest rate since September 2009.

Businesses hired over 11,000 new workers for the third month in a row, exceeding February hires by 2,000 to 3,000 for the previous three Februarys.

Idaho's total employment was 715,000 in February, marking the eighth month in a row that employment numbers have risen.

The national unemployment rate held steady at 8.3 percent in February.

In Idaho, just over 35,000 workers were paid $35.3 million in state and federal unemployment benefits during February, a 20 percent decline from February 2010 when 44,500 jobless workers received $44.7 million in benefits.

Idaho's unemployment rate peaked at 8.9 percent in late 2010.

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