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People are finding jobs in the region.

The jobless rate in the Buffalo Niagara region fell to 7.4 percent last month, a six-year low for June.

It’s also the first time in 18 months that the region’s jobless rate is less than the unemployment figures both nationally and across New York State.

“Basically, the people looking for jobs found them,” said John Slenker, the state Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo.

That left the local unemployment rate below the statewide jobless rate of 7.6 percent and the national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent. The rates are not adjusted for seasonal factors.

With local employers adding new workers at a modest pace, leaving fewer workers unable to find jobs, the unemployment rate here fell more than a full percentage point below the 8.5 percent jobless rate of a year ago, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

While the local unemployment rate was lower than the statewide average in May and during four other months in 2012, June marked the first time the Buffalo Niagara region has had a lower jobless rate than the nation since December 2011, when the local unemployment rate stood at 8.2 percent, while the state and the nation were at 8.3 percent.

Despite the improvement, unemployment levels, which averaged between 4 percent and 6 percent locally during the decade before the onset of the Great Recession more than five years ago, are still uncomfortably high as the pace of hiring remains tepid, and the number of people looking for work is almost 60 percent higher than it was in June 2007. The 7.4 percent jobless rate ranks as the fifth-highest for any June since 1990.

“The economy is improving, but it’s not improving fast enough to bring down unemployment drastically,” Slenker said. “It took us a long time for it to get this high. It’s going to take a while for it to come down.”

Still, the local job market has shown marked signs of improvement during the past year. Local employers have increased their hiring at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent, bringing 4,000 additional jobs to the region since June 2012, the Labor Department said. The pace of that growth, however, is less than half as fast as the 1.7 percent increase nationally during the same 12-month span.

“It’s been kind of steady,” Slenker said.

Even so, the quicker hiring pace helped slash the number of people who were looking for work but couldn’t find a job by almost 14 percent during the past year and reduce the ranks of the unemployed to its lowest level for any month since November 2008, before the recession began hammering the local job market.

At the same time, the number of people who were employed in the Buffalo Niagara region grew by 1 percent during the past year and was at its highest level for any June since 2009. But the region still has 24,300 fewer people who are employed than it did in June 2006.

Among the state’s 14 major metro areas, Buffalo Niagara’s unemployment rate was the eighth-lowest.

Only Binghamton, Elmira, Kingston, Syracuse, Utica and New York City had higher jobless rates.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com