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The number of private-sector jobs in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area rose by 1.8 percent in July from a year ago, led by growth in the leisure, hospitality, educational and health services sectors, according to new data from the state Labor Department.

The state reported Thursday that private-sector employment rose by 8,200 jobs to 465,100. That’s the fourth-most-rapid pace of growth among the 11 metro regions in upstate New York.

Growth was driven by an increase of 3,600 jobs in leisure and hospitality and another 3,500 in educational and health services. Professional and business services added 1,800 jobs, while trade, transportation and utilities saw a gain of 1,000 jobs.

Those gains were offset by a loss of 900 in manufacturing, 600 in natural resources, mining and construction, and 400 in the information sector.

Meanwhile, total nonfarm jobs in the region – including both the private and public sectors but not agriculture – rose by 1.2 percent, or 6,600, as government employment fell by 1,600.

Statewide, the private-sector job count fell by 0.1 percent, or 9,200, to 7,436,800 jobs in July from June, based on a payroll survey of 18,000 employers conducted by the federal Department of Labor. Total nonfarm jobs fell by the same percentage, or 7,300 positions.

Still, state labor officials noted, New York State has added 129,300 private-sector jobs in the past year and is now one of only nine states to have fully recovered all of the private-sector jobs lost in the recession.

The statewide unemployment rate remained flat at 7.5 percent from June to July 2013, still its lowest level since February 2009, and is down from 8.7 percent a year ago. Outside of New York City, the rate fell to 6.8 percent from 6.9 percent in June and 8.2 percent a year ago, while the number of unemployed residents in the state fell by 3,100 from June to 717,700, based on a federal telephone survey of 3,100 households.

“The New York State economy has continued to improve over the past year,” said Bohdan M. Wynnyk, deputy director of the state’s Division of Research and Statistics.

The strong state and local job growth mirrored the national picture. Across the country, the number of people seeking unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 320,000, the fewest since October 2007 – a sign of dwindling layoffs and steady if modest job growth.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average fell 4,000 to 332,000, the fewest since November 2007 and the fifth straight decline.

Companies are laying off fewer workers, a trend that has lowered applications for unemployment benefits 14 percent this year. But hiring is still sluggish, resulting in only modest net job growth.

“The underlying story in jobless claims is one of a continued improvement,” Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas, wrote in a note to clients. But “we need to see the pace of hiring pick up in order for payroll growth to accelerate from its current pace.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press. email: jepstein@buffnews.com