HELENA — Montana’s unemployment rate dropped by 0.5 percent to 7.1 percent in November, marking the third straight month of unemployment rate decreases. The U.S. unemployment rate also experienced a large decrease, dropping 0.4 percent to 8.6 percent in November.

The drop in the unemployment rate is primarily due to an increase of about 1,730 jobs over the last month. The number of unemployed fell 2,230 over the last month. Total employment estimates have posted job growth throughout 2011, with the exception of the third quarter.

Payroll employment estimates, however, indicate a drop of 2,600 jobs over the month, with employment losses concentrated in Government, Construction, Arts, Entertainment and Recreation. Contradictory results from the two employment estimates are not unusual because of a small sample size, and preliminary estimates are regularly revised in the following month when additional employment information becomes available. Both the total and payroll employment estimates have indicated job growth over the past year.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers was unchanged for November after price declines in October. The energy index declined for the second straight month, offsetting increases other prices. The index for all items less food and energy (also called core inflation) increased by 0.2 percent.