Lafayette Parish had the lowest unemployment rate in the state last month, 4.8 percent, according to preliminary unemployment numbers released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission. The March unemployment rate for the Lafayette MSA, which includes Lafayette and St. Martin parishes, was 5.0 percent, the second lowest in the state.

According to LWC March stats, there were 163,300 nonfarm jobs in the Lafayette MSA, an increase of 14,100 jobs from March a year ago. Since March 2011, the goods-producing sector has gained 4,600 jobs, and the service-providing sector has added 9,500 jobs.

“Lafayette Parish’s unemployment numbers have shown steady improvement since mid-2011, and the first quarter of 2012 will be one of the best we’ve seen in two years,” says Gregg Gothreaux, president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. “Shrinking unemployment numbers along with a growing non-farm workforce illustrate the confidence of local businesses to increase and invest in their workforce as the country begins to emerge from the recession.”

Health care, manufacturing and oil and gas saw the largest gains in employment compared to March 2011 — 3,100, 2,600 and 2,500 jobs, respectively. Other industries saw employment increases from 200 to 2,100 jobs, with the jobs in the government sector unchanged.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March was 7 percent, and the U.S. unemployment rate was 8.4 percent.

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