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An oil pump jack is hard at work around sunset next to the bike path in Bakersfield in this June 2014 photo.

Casey Christie / The Californian

State figures released Friday suggest unemployment widened in Kern for a sixth consecutive month in March, reaching a seasonally unadjusted 11.6 percent, the highest in a year and well above September’s 8.4 percent.

The data show the biggest driver was layoffs in farming, which shed 8,200 jobs between February and March, a nearly 16 percent month-to-month drop. Compared with March of last year, though, the result was an increase of 4.5 percent.

The state Economic Development Department pegged California’s jobless rate, also unadjusted for seasonal shifts, at 5.6 percent, down from February’s 5.7 percent. The country as a whole came in at 5.1 percent last month, slightly better than February’s estimate of 5.2 percent, the EDD reported.

In Kern, employment in oil and gas shrank by an estimated 400 jobs in March, or 4.2 percent. The decline in oil prices since mid-2014 has cost the county at least 3,300 positions, or more than 26 percent, state figures suggest.

On the positive side, Friday’s report says there were 700 more people working in local restaurants last month than in February, a monthly increase of 3.5 percent.

But the biggest month-to-month jump reportedly took place in local government, where there were 1,000 more education jobs in March than the month before, representing an increase of 3.5 percent.

The EDD also said employment in the category of administrative, support and waste services grew by 300 positions countywide, or 2.4 percent.

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