March was another month of anemic job growth in the D.C. area


File: Some of the about 1,500 people seeking employment during a job fair are seen through large windows at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater March 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Job growth in the Washington region was anemic again in March, data released Friday by the Labor Department show.

There was no net job growth last month in the District, where the unemployment rate ticked up from 7.4 percent in February to 7.5 percent in March. Although 700 jobs were added in the health services sector, those and other small gains were offset by losses in critical areas such as professional services and government.

Virginia shed 5,100 positions last month, with the steepest drops in the professional services category, which lost 2,300 positions, and health services, which lost 2,000 jobs. The jobless rate in the commonwealth increased slightly, from 4.9 percent to 5 percent.

There was modest job growth in Maryland, which added some 2,300 positions in March as its unemployment rate hovered at 5.6 percent for the second straight month. The state added 1,200 professional services jobs and 800 financial sector positions. Still, the labor market looked slack in other industries, including construction, which shed 900 positions.

Economists and local business leaders have predicted that the Washington area labor market would improve in 2014, but the first quarter has shown no sign of reinvigoration.

“The ongoing losses in professional services and government are particularly telling,” said Anirban Basu, chief executive of Sage Policy Group, a Baltimore economic consultancy. “[They] suggest that sequestration and other forms of impact on federal outlays continue to make their mark on the Washington metropolitan area economy.”

The national unemployment rate held steady at 6.7 percent in March as the economy added 192,000 jobs.

Jobless rates declined in 21 states, increased in 17, and were unchanged in 12. The nation’s highest unemployment rate, 8.7 percent, was in Rhode Island. The lowest, 2.6 percent, was in North Dakota.

Capital Business is The Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community. For more Washington business news, go to capbiz.biz.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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