The Duluth metro area backed away from record employment levels in March but still managed a seasonally low 4.8 percent unemployment rate, according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

In St. Louis, Douglas and Carlton counties, employment levels were fairly steady month over month with about 400 jobs lost. However, since March 2017, the area had added 1,400 employees.

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In February employment levels hit a decades-long high. Looking ahead, strength in the labor market should continue.

“I was kind of interested to see what kind of response there would be to job fairs that occured in the last month,” said Erik White, regional labor analyst with DEED. “I’ve heard there was pretty good turnout, both in the Duluth job fair and the one in Virginia. The hiring season begins - and perhaps the data is not showing that yet.”

In March the manufacturing, mining, logging and construction industries together had nearly 3 percent more employees than they did a year ago, and transportation jobs were on the rise as well. Month over month, though, most of these employers were either not hiring or letting a few people go.

Education and health jobs, which comprise nearly a fourth of the region’s employment, had a rare dip between February and March though the sectors grew by 1.7 percent year-over-year.

“Especially when it’s a quarter of the economy, that’s considerable,” White said.

The unemployment rate inside Duluth fell a hair to 3.4 percent as a few hundred people dropped out of the labor market last month. In Cloquet the rate ticked up to 5.7 percent, while Hibbing and Virginia kept relatively low rates of 5.2 and 5 percent, respectively.

Across Minnesota in March, about 3.8 percent of people who were looking for a job did not have one last month.

In Superior, the unemployment rate fell to 3.4 percent in March, compared with a statewide average of 3.2 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in March.