- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Louisiana’s unemployment rate continued to fall in March, even as employer payrolls fell.

The state’s jobless rate declined to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent in February. That’s well above the 5.5 percent the state recorded in March 2014, and Louisiana is tied with West Virginia for the fourth-highest rate among the states. Unemployment has declined in each of the past three months as what had been a rapid increase in job seekers has eased.

“Overall, it looks like hiring in Louisiana is catching up with the rapid growth in our workforce,” Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink said in a statement.

The civilian labor force and number of people reporting jobs both again set records in March.

The report found 145,000 Louisianans unemployed in March. That’s down almost 3,000 from February but almost 30,000 above March 2014.

Unemployment rates fell in 23 states in March, rose in 12 and were flat in 15. Slowing oil and gas drilling meant that for the first time in years, North Dakota didn’t have the nation’s lowest jobless rate. Instead, it was Nebraska with the lowest unemployment rate at 2.6 percent. Nevada had the highest rate at 7.1 percent.

The national unemployment rate was flat from February to March at 5.5 percent, down from 6.6 percent in March 2014.

Figures, adjusted to cancel out seasonal changes, were released Tuesday by the U.S. Labor Department.

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 many economists use as their top labor market indicator.

Louisiana payrolls fell by 3,000 in March to 1.98 million, a third month of decline after hitting an all-time high of almost 2 million payroll jobs in December. Employers report 14,000 more jobs than in March 2014. The state’s payrolls have risen 5.9 percent since bottoming out in early 2010 and are 2.3 percent above pre-recession levels.

Payroll employment fell in January in economic sectors including trade, transportation and utilities, leisure and hospitality, construction, manufacturing and government. Louisiana payrolls rose in education and health services, professional and business services, and financial activities.

The mining and logging sector lost 600 jobs in March and is down 4,400 for the year as lower oil prices dampen drilling.

The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 11.3 percent in Louisiana for all of 2014, the most recent figures released. That includes people who look for work only sporadically, who have given up looking or who work part time because they can’t find a full-time job.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 12 percent during the same period.

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Online: State employment report: https://1.usa.gov/104hKGL

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy

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