State unemployment rate shrinks amid job losses

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Indiana’s unemployment rate slipped to 5.8 percent in March even as private-sector employment declined by 800 jobs, the state Department of Workforce Development said Tuesday morning.

The rate fell from 5.9 percent in February.

The state had been on a streak that saw private-sector employment rise in 20 of the previous 25 months. But a 5,200-job decline in the professional and business services sector outweighed results in other fields.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector posted a 1,900-job increase and manufacturing had a rise of 1,300 jobs.

Indiana’s unemployment rate stood at 6 percent a year ago.

The state’s labor-force-participation rate fell by 0.2 percentage points in March, to 63.6 percent. It continues to be nearly a full percentage point higher than the national average.

Ohio and Kentucky led the Midwest with the lowest unemployment rates in March, at 5.1 percent, followed by Michigan (5.6 percent), Indiana and Illinois (6 percent).

The national unemployment rate for March was 5.5 percent.

Unemployment rates fell in only 23 U.S. states last month and rose in 12 as employers pulled back on hiring, and a slowdown in oil and gas drilling caused big job losses in some states.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that unemployment rates were unchanged in 15 states. Thirty-one state lost jobs while hiring picked up in just 18 states.

The biggest job cuts occurred in states with large oil and gas drilling, led by Texas, which lost 25,400 jobs, followed by Oklahoma, which cut 12,900. Pennsylvania lost 12,700, the third largest loss.

A sharp fall in oil prices since last June has caused oil and gas companies to cut back on drilling.

Nationwide, employers added just 126,000 jobs in March, the fewest in a year.

The cutbacks in oil and gas production have also led to job losses in North Dakota, which had experienced an oil and gas boom since the recession. The boom sent the unemployment rate falling to the lowest in the nation.

But in February its unemployment rate rose and the state no longer had the lowest unemployment rate nationwide. It rose again in March, to 3.1 percent. Nebraska now has the lowest rate, at 2.6 percent.

Nevada reported the highest unemployment rate, at 7.1 percent.

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