The unemployment rate for District residents jumped to 7.2 percent in June, the highest rate in more than three years and a reflection of growing weakness in the local economy, which has been hit in recent months by layoffs in the construction, retail, defense and banking industries.

"The area labor market appears to be very fragile as the economy moves into the second half of 1990," said F. Alexis H. Roberson, director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services.

Analysts point out that the 1 percentage-point increase over the 6.2 percent D.C. unemployment rate in May was expected, since over the past two decades jobless rates have routinely risen by that amount from May to June, when youths looking for summer employment flood the market. More troubling, however, was the 1.1 percentage point jump in June 1990 over the 6.1 percent unemployment rate in June 1989.

In the suburbs, the 2.6 percent unemployment rate was still significantly below the unadjusted national civilian unemployment rate of 5.3 percent in June, and in line with the 2.6 percent unemployment rate in June a year ago.

But the suburbs, too, showed signs of a softening economy. The lack of change in the unemployment rate was due to the significant decline in the civilian labor force, which dropped by 8,300 people over the past year. Total employment in the suburbs declined by 9,800.

In the entire Washington metropolitan area, the civilian labor force dropped by 31,300 over the past year, and total employment dropped by 34,600.

That's a marked change from the year before, when the Washington metropolitan area created 64,500 new jobs, and an even sharper contrast to job growth in some earlier years, when 100,000 new jobs were created.

During those earlier years, the labor force also was growing rapidly, as workers from rural Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other areas as far away as Texas were pouring into the Washington region to fill numerous vacancies in construction, engineering and other sectors.

One key indicator of the overall weakness of the economy is the slowing in the services industry, according to Richard Groner, chief of labor market information of the D.C. Department of Employment Services.

"The services industry, which has been the strong growth industry in recent years, slowed to less than 1 percent growth over the past year, with some small job loss {2,300} in engineering and management services," Groner said. "That is key. For the last four months, construction has been showing negative job growth, but the construction industry in terms of total employment is not that large," compared with the services sector, he said.

The construction industry in the metropolitan area employed 143,200 people in June, a loss of 8,000 jobs compared with the 151,200 people working in the construction industry a year before.

In comparison, 747,600 people were employed in the services industry in June, making it the largest industry in the metropolitan area. There were 741,300 people employed in the services industry in June 1989.

............... June 1990 ... May 1990 ... June 1989

District ........... 7.2% ....... 6.2% ........ 6.1%

Suburbs ............ 2.6 ....... 2.2 ........ 2.6

Total .............. 3.3 ....... 2.8 ........ 3.1

SOURCE: D.C. Department of Employment Services