Los Angeles County's unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent in March from 5.3 percent in February as more people who were looking for work found jobs.

With the drop of 34,000 from the unemployment rolls, L.A. County's unemployment rate was on a par with both the statewide and nationwide rates for March, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

The rate also was down from 5.5 percent in March 2005

Furthermore, the county added 20,000 non-farm payroll jobs in March compared to February as nearly every major industry sector continued to post employment gains.

Not only were February non-farm payroll jobs up 0.5 percent to 4,056,400 but they were also up 1.4 percent from February 2005 as the county gained 51,000 jobs during that 12-month period. That's an improved performance than the average 1 percent year-over-year job growth the county has seen in recent months.

Total civilian employment also rose 28,000 or 1.2 percent in March to 4,660,000 from February. Over the past year, civilian employment which is a measure of jobs by household grew by 100,000, or 2.1 percent. This relatively robust growth is due to the increasing prominence of the "informal economy" of consultants, sole proprietors and others not counted on company payrolls.

Statewide, a net of 10,800 jobs were dropped from payrolls in February, bringing the total count to 14,956,000 as net employment losses were posted in seven sectors, including manufacturing, government and business and professional services.

Meanwhile, the statewide unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent from 5.0 percent in February and from 5.5 percent in March 2005. The sharp drop in L.A. County's unemployment rate helped bring down the statewide figure.

But even at 4.8 percent, L.A. County's rate was higher than those of all neighboring counties. Orange County continued to post the lowest unemployment rate in the region, at 3.4 percent.

At the local level, the city of Los Angeles posted a 5.4 percent unemployment rate in March, while Long Beach recorded a rate of 5.5 percent. Both were down sharply from February.

The lowest unemployment rate among L.A. County cities with more than 100,000 population was Torrance at 2.2 percent, followed by Santa Clarita at 2.7 percent. The highest unemployment rate among larger cities was Lancaster at 6.6 percent, followed by Inglewood at 5.9 percent.

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