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Visitors use the Unemployment Insurance phone bank at the California Employment Development Department office in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Sept. 20, 2013.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

A steep loss in seasonal farm employment erased cumulative hiring gains in services, health care and education as Kern County's unadjusted jobless rate edged slightly upward in March to 11.1 percent, the state reported Friday.

Statewide, unemployment rate declined on a seasonally unadjusted basis, from a revised 6.8 percent to 6.5 percent in March. The national rate dropped as well, from a revised 5.8 percent in February to 5.6 percent, stated on an unadjusted basis.

The number of people working in Kern agriculture last month fell by 8,800, or 17.4 percent. Year over year, the total was down only 1.6 percent from March 2014, according to numbers posted by California's Employment Development Department.

Oil-related employment in the county slipped by 200 jobs, or about 2 percent, to 10,500. That brought the category's year-over-year decline to 13.2 percent, a pullback attributed to the roughly 50 percent drop in global oil prices since June.

Other local industries posted sizeable gains last month -- a good sign that might be easy to overlook in the larger context.

Overall, Kern County service providers saw a 1.4 percent increase in employment last month, which added 3,000 jobs, the EDD reported.

A lot of that improvement came from the broad category of trade, transportation and utilities. Employment there expanded by 1,100 positions, or 2.2 percent.

The number of retail jobs in the county increased in March by 900, or 2.9 percent. Year over year, the category was up 9.6 percent.

Employment in health care and social assistance grew by 800 jobs, or 2.5 percent. Since March 2014, the classification has increased 4.2 percent.

Food services and drinking establishments in Kern added 600 jobs last month, or 2.9 percent. Employment in the category was up 10.8 percent over March 2014 totals.

Another big winner in March was education employment in local government. The category expanded by 2.8 percent last month, or 800 jobs, bringing it to 5.4 percent improvement since March 2014.

The county's revised unemployment rate in February was 11 percent. The EDD said Kern's tenth-of-a-percent employment loss in March represented 6,000 lost jobs.

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