Massachusetts employers added jobs at a healthy clip last month, and the unemployment rate fell as the local job market continued its slow climb back to pre-COVID levels.
The jobless rate fell to 4.3 percent in March, down 0.4 percentage point from the previous month, the Baker administration said on Friday. Unemployment is the lowest it’s been since the pandemic began in March 2020, but is still above the national mark of 3.6 percent.
Like New York, California, and other states hit hard by COVID, Massachusetts was slower to drop pandemic restrictions, and that has made recouping lost jobs a tougher slog here than elsewhere.
The state added 21,000 jobs in March, and February’s gain was revised upward by 7,700. Employers have added an average of 18,500 jobs in the past six months, reflecting at least a partial easing of the labor shortage caused by COVID. In 2019, hiring increased by an average of 4,300 a month.
The professional and business services sector led the payroll growth last month, adding 7,200 jobs. Education and health services gained 6,900 jobs, while leisure and hospitality grew by 3,900 jobs.
The labor force edged up to 3.775 million last month, and the participation rate — or percentage of adults who are working or looking for a job — rose 0.1 percentage point to 66.0 percent. There were 18,000 more residents employed in March, and 15,300 fewer residents were unemployed.