Los Angeles County’s jobs picture continued its gradual improvement in March as the unemployment rate dipped to 10.2 percent and employers added nearly 24,000 jobs, according to state figures released Friday.

L.A. County’s unemployment rate fell from 10.3 percent in February and from 11.2 percent in March of last year, according to figures from the state Employment Development Department. But the reason for the drop was not encouraging: fewer L.A. County residents were in the labor force as many gave up on their job search.

Also, the county continues to lag the rest of the state and the nation; California’s unemployment rate was 9.4 percent in March, while the national rate was 7.6 percent.

And in the county’s two largest cities – Los Angeles and Long Beach – the unemployment rate remains high, at around 11 percent.

The picture was a little brighter in March on the payroll jobs front, which was taken from a different survey. It showed that county employers added 23,700 jobs from February, for a growth rate of 0.6 percent. The motion picture industry led the way, gaining 9,600 jobs. Professional and business service firms added 6,500 jobs to their payrolls, with more than half of those in accounting as the April income tax deadline loomed.

“We’re seeing hiring pick up in technology, entertainment and health care,” said Mara Klug, regional vice president in the Los Angeles office of Adecco, a Swiss recruiting and staffing firm. Klug said that the pace of hiring was modest in March, but has really accelerated this month.

Trade-related employment sustained the biggest loss in payroll jobs in March, down 4,100, followed by a drop of 2,000 jobs in the retail sector.

The payroll jobs figures are taken from periodic surveys of employer payrolls, while the unemployment figures are based on a sampling of household surveys.

Over the past year, Los Angeles County payrolls expanded by 83,000 jobs, for a growth rate of 2.1 percent, with nearly a third of those jobs coming in professional and business services.

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