Virginia registered the largest one-month decline in the jobless rate in nearly six months, with unemployment dropping nearly a percentage point from February to March, the state's employment commission reported yesterday.

Unemployment in Virginia fell to 7.7 percent in March, down from 8.6 percent in February and considerably lower than the national unemployment rate of 10.8 percent. The March jobless figure represented the first time in three years that the unemployment rate was below the level for the same month a year earlier.

Since January, when the state had an unemployment rate of 9 percent, the jobless rate has dropped by 1.3 percentage points. Last month's decline in the jobless rate meant that approximately 24,400 Virginians had gone back to work, according to state officials.

"About half of that was seasonal and about half of that was the result of recovery," said state analyst William Mezger. "It was an unusually good month."

Total employment in the state grew by 42,200 in March, expanding much more rapidly than the labor force, which grew by only 17,800. The number of workers eligible for jobless benefits during the month dropped to 73,800 from 80,100 in February, the state service said.

As usual, the lowest jobless rate in the state was in Northern Virginia where it was 3.7 percent. The highest unemployment--a jobless rate of 33.4 percent--was in Buchanan County in the coal mining area in the southwest part of the state.