L.A. County’s economy continued to coast near full employment in March as the unemployment rate held steady at 4.5 percent for the third straight month and local employers added a relatively small 13,000 jobs, according to state figures released April 20.

The unemployment rate was below the 4.9 percent level of a year ago, the state Employment Development Department reported. But it was higher than the statewide average of 4.3 percent and the national average of 4.1 percent.

The rate stayed steady as there was virtually no change in the number of employment positions or the labor force, which held at around 5.14 million. The unemployment rate is derived from a survey of households throughout L.A. County.

L.A. County’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach, reported the same 4.2 percent unemployment rates in March. The city with the lowest unemployment rate was Palos Verdes Estates at 0.9 percent, while the city with the highest rate was Lancaster at 6 percent. (Rates in some small unincorporated communities were as high as 10 percent.)

Meanwhile, the county reported a net addition of 13,100 jobs to reach 4,472,200 non-farm payroll positions in March, an increase of 0.3 percent from February.

The growth was led by local governments, which added 5,300 jobs to their payrolls. Health care/social assistance employers added 3,300 payroll jobs, followed by employers in the arts/entertainment/recreation sector with a net 3,000 jobs.

But these gains were offset by net drops in transportation/warehousing/utilities (down 3,100 jobs) and retail trade (down 2,500).

The EDD also applies a seasonal adjustment formula to the payroll jobs numbers; when that is factored in, the number of payroll jobs fell by 4,000 to 4,464,700 in March from February.

Over the 12-month period ending in March, employers in Los Angeles County added a net 61,700 jobs to their payrolls, an increase of 1.4 percent. Among the biggest gainers: health care/social assistance (up 14,500), professional/business services (up 12,000) and arts/entertainment/recreation (up 11,000).

Manufacturing employment continued its long-term decline, shedding a net 1,200 jobs over the past year.

Economy, education, energy and transportation reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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