PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) â¿¿ The average unemployment rate in New England last year was considerably lower than the national rate for the fifth consecutive year. The New England Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday that the average jobless rate in the six-state region was 7.2 percent in 2012. Nationally, it was 8.1 percent. All of the New England states except Rhode Island had an average rate considerably lower than the U.S. rate. Vermont's was 5 percent; New Hampshire's was 5.5 percent; Massachusetts' was 6.7 percent; and Maine's was 7.3 percent. Rhode Island's average was 10.4 percent, the third highest in the country. The New England rate in 2011 was 7.8 percent.