Louisiana's unemployment rate rose in March for the third straight month, as fewer people reported having work.

The increase, reported Friday by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, contrasts with a separate survey showing employer payrolls rose in Louisiana.

The jobless rate rose to 6.2 from 6 percent in February, though it remained below the 6.8 percent rate of March 2012.

The number of people in the labor force fell, but was outstripped by a larger decrease in the number of people who said they have jobs. That drove up the number of unemployed Louisianans by almost 3,000 in March to above 129,000. That's below the nearly 143,000 in March 2012.

The national unemployment rate fell to 7.6 percent in March from 7.7 percent in February. It was also below the 8.2 percent level of March 2012.

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.

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 nonfarm payrolls rose to 1.94 million in March, up by about 3,000 employees from February and almost 25,000 above March 2012 levels.

Adding workers were sectors including construction, manufacturing and trade, transportation and utilities. Payrolls dropped in the professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality, financial activities and government sectors.

The state's overall payrolls approached but did not quite reach the record level of last December. Officials with the Louisiana Workforce Commission said that if the government sector was excluded, private nonfarm payrolls hit a new record.

"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.

The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 11.9 percent in Louisiana during 2012, the most recent figures available. That number includes people who are looking for work only sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can't find a full-time job.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 14.7 percent during the same time.

Parish-level jobless rates will be released later.


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