LITTLE ROCK — The unemployment rate in Arkansas is the lowest it has been in almost three years, according to labor statistics released Friday.

LITTLE ROCK — The unemployment rate in Arkansas is the lowest it has been in almost three years, according to labor statistics released Friday.

The report for March showed a rate of 7.4 percent, down two-tenths from February.

“Arkansas’ unemployment rate continues to show signs of improvement,” said Kimberly Friedman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Workforce Services. “The last time we experienced a rate of 7.4 percent was in June 2009. Additionally, March was the eighth consecutive month of employment growth.”

The state’s unemployment rate in March was eight-tenths of a percentage point below the national rate of 8.2 percent, which was down from 8.3 percent in February.

The state reported that 1.29 million people were employed and 103,400 were out of work in Arkansas last month.

The total state civilian labor force grew by 3,600 in March.

Eight major industry sectors reported gains since February, two declined slightly and one remained the same. Leisure and hospitality saw the biggest increase with 4,900 jobs added, most of them attributed to seasonal hiring in accommodation and food services.

Trade, transportation and utilities added 3,300 jobs, most of them attributed to seasonal hiring in retail trade.

Educational and health services added 1,100 jobs. The growth was attributed to hiring in health care and social assistance.

The two sectors that reported decreases were professional and business services, with 600 jobs lost, and financial activities, with 100 jobs lost.

Since March 2011, seven major industry sectors reported gains, more than offsetting declines in four industries. The biggest increase was in leisure and hospitality with 5,200 jobs added, most of them in food services.

Educational and health services increased by 4,700 jobs since a year earlier, with most of the growth occurring in health care and social assistance.

Government added 3,400 jobs over the past year, related to expansions in public education.

Manufacturing jobs decreased by 5,000 since March 2011, with gains in durable goods more than offset by losses in nondurable goods.

Jobs in professional and business services decreased by 3,000 since March of last year. Most of the losses occurred in professional-scientific-technical services, related in part to reported declines in advertising and public relations services and management consulting.