BOSTON -- The Massachusetts unemployment rate for May dropped to a near six-year low of 5.6 percent, down from 6 percent in the previous month, and initial estimates showed a net gain of more than 9,000 jobs during the month, state officials said Thursday.

The jobless rate was the lowest in the state since it stood at 5.5 percent in August 2008, and in less than a year the rate has dropped more than one and a half points from 7.2 percent in July-September of last year, according to the Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

The U.S. unemployment rate in May was 6.3 percent, unchanged from April’s rate that was the lowest in more than five years.

Preliminary estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Massachusetts added 8,800 private sector jobs in May, with a net gain of 9,100 jobs for the month.

The bureau revised its April estimates to show a net loss of 2,000 jobs in that month, down from the earlier estimate of 1,600 jobs lost. Still, the state touted a net gain of more than 50,000 new private sector jobs over the past 12 months.

"We are in a strong place within our borders and competitively around the world," said Rachel Kaprelian, state Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development.

Kaprelian noted that Gov. Deval Patrick, before taking office in January 2007, had pledged to create at least 100,000 new jobs during his administration and that figure has now been exceeded, with about 114,000 jobs added as the governor approaches the end of his second and final term.

The May report showed a decline of 3,800 in the state’s overall labor force, with 8,800 more residents employed than in the previous month, and 12,700 fewer residents out of work.

MassBenchmarks, a journal of the state’s economy published by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts, struck a generally upbeat tone in a June 10 analysis, noting that wages and salaries were rising at a "healthy clip," and sales tax revenues were pointing to an increase in household spending.

But the assessment also highlighted areas for concern.

"The rebound in single-family housing construction has stalled and, outside of hot markets in the immediate Boston area, the housing recovery has slowed. Business investment, a key driver of state economic activity, remains weak," the economists wrote.

Thursday’s report showed the state’s manufacturing sector has also remained largely stagnant over the past 12 months, which Kaprelian attributes to a gap between the skills sought by advanced technology companies, and the more traditional skills possessed by much of the workforce.

"Manufacturing is alive and thriving, but it is not our grandfather’s manufacturing," she said.