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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The unemployment rate in San Diego County decreased to 6.9% in March, down from a revised 7.2% in February but well above the year- ago rate of 3.8% — before the extent of the economic damage caused by the pandemic was clear — according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

Statewide, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 8.2% in March, down from 8.5% in February. The country posted a 6.2% unemployment rate in the same time period, unchanged from February.

Between February and March, non-farm employment increased by 9,900, from 1,382,200 to 1,392,100 and agricultural employment increased by 200, from 8,900 to 9,100.

Non-farm employers in San Diego County added 5,300 jobs in March after considering the typical, seasonal hiring that generally occurs during this time of year.

“We are starting to see the momentum build as San Diego’s economy opens back up,” said Phil Blair, Executive Officer of Manpower West. “There are lots of opportunities now for San Diegans to go back to work and revive the economy for all.”

Leisure and hospitality added the most jobs over the month with an increase of 5,000 jobs. Accommodation and food services boosted the overall sector by 3,700 jobs. Arts, entertainment, and recreation — up 1,300 jobs– completed the overall sectoral gain.

Professional and business services increased by 3,300 jobs and government expanded by 2,100 jobs.

Construction lead month over decline with a contraction of 1,500 jobs. The bulk of loss was concentrated in heavy and civil engineering construction — down 1,100 jobs. Mining and logging remained unchanged.

Lynn Reaser, chief economist for Point Loma Nazarene University, emphasized the report is very much a backward look.

“The economy is moving much faster than the data,” she said.

The latest report represents conditions in March when San Diego County was still in the most restrictive purple tier of the state’s Blueprint for Recovery. By the middle of last month, the region had improved to the red zone and it is now in the orange tier allowing more businesses to reopen. Gov. Gavin Newsom has targeted June 15 as a point when a full reopening of the economy could proceed.

Between March 2020 and March 2021, non-farm employment fell by 107,900, or 7.2%. Agricultural employment decreased by 400, or 4.2%.

Leisure and hospitality shed the most jobs over the year with a loss of 55,400 jobs. Accommodation and food services  — down 43,100 jobs — accounted for 78% of the drop. Payroll losses in arts, entertainment, and recreation — down 12,300 jobs — contributed to the overall sector decline.

Government decreased by 14,700 jobs over the year, 96% of which — 14,100 jobs — were in local government.

Professional and business services — up 600 jobs — and construction – – up 100 jobs — were the only industries that contributed year over additions. Mining and logging remained unchanged.

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