Following a severe increase in unemployment in February, March showed tentative signs that the worst deterioration could be over.
Many employers held off on shedding more employees in March, according to new labor figures released Thursday.
The city’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady at 8.1% in March, according to the state Department of Labor.
That static figure follows a dramatic worsening in February, when unemployment jumped to 8.1% from 6.9% in January. It was the biggest single-month increase in more than three decades.
“It’s a suggestion that the particularly severe part of the downturn may be leveling off, but we’ll have to wait at least another month to feel comfortable with that,” said James Brown, principal economist at the state’s Department of Labor.
Still, the city has lost 104,100 jobs since the peak of August 8, 2008, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the office of Comptroller William Thompson.
Outside the city, the adjusted unemployment rate was 7.6%, bringing the state’s unemployment rate to 7.8%. Both figures stayed the same from February.
The rising number of unemployed New Yorkers will likely temper any optimism seeded by the flat unemployment rate. In the state, 765,900 people were unemployed in March, according to the Department of Labor. That’s the highest rate since September 1992.
In the city, some 325,700 people were unemployed in March, according to the labor department.
“While the city unemployment rate remained the same, it is still at a level not seen in more than five years,” said Mr. Thompson in a statement. “I remain hopeful that the infusion of federal stimulus funds into our economy will help to stabilize our job market and place us on our way to recovery.”
The trade, transportation and utilities sector shed the most jobs, on an unadjusted basis, in the 12-month period that ended in March 2009. It lost some 52,300 jobs.
Manufacturing gave up 37,000 in the year; 36,400 fell from professional and business services; and financial activities, which includes positions related to securities and commodity contracts, shrunk by 30,200.
On the brighter side, some companies did more seasonal hiring in March, something they’d largely put off in February.
The leisure and hospitality sector, which typically beefs up staff to handle the swell of summer tourists, added 7,400 jobs between February and March.
“Seasonal hiring was better in March,” Mr. Brown said. “Since this downturn has been so severe, there was a chance that there wouldn’t be any.”
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