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Foxboro police have received 146 reports of unemployment fraud since March 1 of last year. In the year prior, they saw none.

Foxboro’s unemployment numbers have grown slightly, bucking an an area-wide trend of jobless rates dropping.

According to figures released by the state, unemployment in seven of 10 area communities was down, reflecting a statewide trend for February.

However, three area communities saw unemployment rates rise slightly from the previous month. Foxboro’s went from 6.1% in January of this year to 6.3% in February, Seekonk’s rose to 6.4% from 6% and Wrentham went from 6% to 6.2%.The state’s unemployment rate fell slightly to 7.1% for the month, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said. That compares to the national rate of 6.2%.

In town-by-town comparisons released on Tuesday, North Attleboro saw the biggest drop in jobless numbers, 5.9% compared to 6.6% for January.

It’s still painfully high compared to the 2.9% figure from February of 2020, before coronavirus pandemic shutdowns of businesses began to bite.

But, it’s also a major change from the height of the pandemic, when jobless rates in many area communities climbed into the teens.

After months of steady decline, jobless numbers in the area had taken a disquieting turn starting in December, with most of the communities in the area seeing a slight uptick from the month before.

Those numbers remained mostly stagnant in January as businesses weathered a state-imposed stay-at-home order and capacity restrictions amid a surge of coronavirus cases in several communities. The state lifted many of those restrictions only in late January.

The latest state figures appear to reflect the impact of that gradual reopening.

For February, Attleboro’s jobless rate was the highest in the area at 6.6%, down half a percentage point from January’s 7.1%, and most other communities saw slight drops in percentages of people out of work.

Norfolk had the lowest unemployment rate in the area, 5.4%, down from 5.8% in January, again a far cry from the pre-pandemic rate of 2.6% in February of last year.

However, three area communities saw unemployment rates rise slightly from the previous month. Foxboro’s went from 6.1% in January of this year to 6.3% in February, Seekonk’s rose to 6.4% from 6% and Wrentham went from 6% to 6.2%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts gained 14,100 jobs in February. That follows last month’s revised gain of 37,900 jobs.

During February, the private sector added thousands of jobs, led by the leisure and hospitality and professional, scientific, and business service sectors.

From February 2020 to February 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates Massachusetts lost 325,100 jobs, in large part due to the pandemic.

The largest percentage drop during those 12 months came in the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 30% of its jobs.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

Tom Reilly can be reached at 508-236-0332 or treilly@thesunchronicle.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tomreillynews.

Area unemployment rates for February

Community February 2021 January 2021 February 2020
Attleboro 6.6 7.1 3.4
Foxboro 6.3 6.1 2.8
Mansfield 5.8 6.1 2.6
Norfolk 5,4 5.8 2.7
North Attleboro 5.9 6.6 2.9
Norton 6.4 6.9 3.1
Plainville 6.6 6.9 2.9
Rehoboth 5.9 6.4 3.4
Seekonk 6.4 6.0 3.4
Wrentham 6.2 6.0 2,6

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