Kern County's jobless rate held at 13.6 percent in March as seasonal losses in farming employment were offset by hiring in entertainment, business support and education, according to new state data.

Though improved from March 2012's 15.3 percent, last month's jobless rate was unchanged from February's adjusted 13.6 percent, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday. It said the statewide rate was 9.4 percent, and the nation's was 7.6 percent.

The department said Kern farmwork declined in March by nearly 15 percent, or 6,500 jobs. Nevertheless, the category was up 10 percent over a year before.

Month over month, the county's biggest relative increase took place in the category of "arts, entertainment & recreation," which grew by 4.8 percent, or 100 jobs.

That was followed by a 4 percent gain in "administrative & support & waste services," which the state said added 500 jobs. Next best was local government education with a 3.4 percent increase, or 900 positions.

Employment in construction and department stores both grew by more than 2 percent in March.

Year over year, the county's best nonfarm job engines have been wholesale trade (up 9 percent); transportation, warehousing and utility work (7 percent); real estate (6.5 percent); education services (5.9 percent); business support services (5.7 percent); food manufacturing (5.4 percent); and construction (5 percent), the department reported.

On the other hand, the biggest year-to-year losses have taken place in management (down 16.7 percent) and state government not including education (-8.4 percent).

-- Staff writer John Cox