La. gains jobs in March

Louisiana’s total nonfarm employment grew by 29,600 jobs in the 12 months ending March to a total of 1,944,200 jobs, federal figures released Friday show.

A survey of Louisiana employers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found the state’s private employers continued to add jobs for the 31st consecutive month.

“These numbers validate what we’ve been hearing from employers in many industries, that business is really looking up,” Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink said in a statement.

Louisiana’s unemployment rate was 6.2 percent in March, up from 6.0 percent in February. Despite the increase, the state was well below the Southern regional average of 7.2 percent and the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent.

The number of unemployed Louisianians was 129,387, a decrease of 13,167 since March 2012. However, the number of unemployed people in the state rose 2,703 from February.

Louisiana’s labor force, which includes people who are working or looking for work, topped 2.09 million in March. The number of people working in the state was 1.96 million during February.

The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure that many economists look to as their top labor market indicator.

Louisiana was among seven states where unemployment rates rose, but also among 23 states that reported a net gain in hiring.

Unemployment rates fell in 26 states and were unchanged in 17.

Employers cut jobs in 26 states, and New Mexico reported little change. That was much worse than in February, when 42 states reported job gains.

A separate weekly report on first-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana showed an increase to 2,620 claims from the previous week’s total of 2,444. Initial claims were below the comparable week a year earlier at 3,606.

The four-week moving average, which is a less volatile measure of claims, increased to 2,196 from the previous week’s total of 2,013.

Continued unemployment claims for the week ending April 13 decreased to 22,761, compared to the previous week’s total of 23,218. The four-week moving average for such claims decreased to 23,460 from the previous week’s average of 24,270.

Nationwide, hiring slowed sharply in March. Employers added only 88,000 jobs, down from an average of 220,000 from November through February. The national unemployment rate fell to 7.6 percent, but only because more Americans ended their job searches.

Nevada had the highest jobless rate among the states in March at 9.7 percent, while North Dakota again had the lowest rate at 3.3 percent.