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Job growth in the region continued at its modest but steady pace in March, with the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area adding 3,200 jobs, most in the private sector, over the previous 12 months, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.

The region added jobs at a pace of 0.6 percent over the period between March 2013 and March of this year, a slightly slower pace than the 0.9 percent annualized growth for the 12 months ending in February and the 0.8 percent for the 12 months ending in January.

That level of growth is strong considering the deep freeze that gripped the region well into April and likely stymied construction, tourism and other weather-sensitive economic activity, said John Slenker, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo.

“The biggest economic news we had the past three, four months was the weather,” Slenker said.

The March jobs data put the Buffalo area in a tie for fifth among the 14 largest metro areas in the state, though the region’s growth rate was half the statewide rate of 1.2 percent and well behind the national rate of 1.6 percent, according to the Labor Department.

Overall, New York added 103,600 jobs over the 12 months ending in March, with the state adding 108,200 private-sector jobs and losing 4,600 government jobs. Soaring job totals in the educational and health services sector offset further losses in the manufacturing and financial arenas.

The statewide unemployment rate crept up from 6.8 percent in February to 6.9 percent in March, as more people felt confident enough to enter the job market, though New York’s jobless rate has fallen sharply from the 7.9 percent rate in March 2013. The national jobless rate remained unchanged between February and March at 6.7 percent.

Compared with its peer metro areas in the state, the 0.6 percent rate of job growth over the previous 12 months for Buffalo-Niagara Falls bested the rates for Putnam-Rockland-Westchester counties (0.3 percent), Albany-Schenectady-Troy (flat), Rochester (0.4 percent) and Syracuse (dropped 0.5 percent).

The region’s annual job growth trailed the rates for New York City (1.9 percent), Kingston (1.9 percent) and Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown (1.5 percent).

Looking at private sector jobs alone, the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area gained 3,100 jobs over the previous 12 months, at an annual growth rate of 0.7 percent.

Slenker said trade, transportation and utilities (up 1,700 jobs over March 2013); professional and business services (up 1,500 jobs) and health and educational services (up 900 jobs) paced the local job growth. Financial services (down 800 jobs) and manufacturing (down 600 jobs) were a drag.

State data shows that 544,000 people in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area had jobs in March, a total that Slenker said was the highest since March 2001.

email: swatson@buffnews.com