COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio's unemployment rate was unchanged in March but remains below the national average, according to data released Friday.
The seasonally adjusted rate of 7.1 percent was the same as the revised February rate and up just slightly from 7 percent the previous month, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The static numbers so far this year followed months of small, steady unemployment declines in 2012.
Ohio's unemployment rate remains below the national rate, which was 7.6 percent in March. That was down from 7.7 percent in February and 8.2 percent in March 2012.
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services spokesman Ben Johnson called the recent unemployment numbers the "inherent fluctuation in a slow recovery." However, he said, "the general trend of the Ohio economy is positive, and the economy is improving slowly."
He said that the flatter numbers may be indicative of a slowdown in the national economy in the year's second quarter that has been predicted by some economists, but that a few more months of data are required to be sure.
The number of nonagricultural jobs in Ohio decreased 20,400 over the month, from the revised 5,197,300 in February to 5,176,900 in March, according to the latest business establishment survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor in cooperation with Job and Family Services.
There were 406,000 unemployed workers in the state in March, up from 405,000 in February. But the number of unemployed has decreased by 19,000 in the past 12 months, from 425,000. The March unemployment rate for Ohio was down from 7.4 percent from March 2012.
Ohio's unemployment rate peaked at 10.6 percent during the last half of 2009 and early 2010 before beginning its trek downward. January marked the first time Ohio's monthly unemployment rate failed to decline or at least remain steady since July 2011.
Goods-producing industries lost 1,400 jobs during March, according to Friday's report.
The 3,300 decreases in construction jobs outweighed a 1,800 increase in manufacturing jobs and 100 jobs added in mining and logging. Private service-providing industries lost 15,400 jobs, and employment also decreased in leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.
There was growth in trade, transportation and utilities, and financial activities. Federal and local governments shed 3,600 jobs, while state government employment remained constant.