LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ unemployment rate held steady at 7.2 percent in March, according to labor statistics released Friday.

The state jobless rate was 0.4 percentage points below the national rate, which dropped from 7.7 percent in February to 7.6 percent in March.

"Arkansas’ unemployment rate remained at 7.2 percent for the second consecutive month," said Kimberly Friedman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Workforce Services. "While the number of employed declined, the decrease wasn’t enough to impact the unemployment rate."

DWS reported that 1.33 million Arkansans were employed in March and 96,500 were unemployed.

Job increases were reported in 10 major industry sectors, with the biggest increase, 3,300, in trade, transportation and utilities. A majority of the increase, 2,200, related in large part to seasonal hiring at building materials-garden supply stores and at general merchandise stores.

Professional business services added 2,900 jobs, with most of the gains in administrative and support services, 2,500, which includes employment services and services to buildings and dwellings.

Jobs in construction rose 1,400, a typical seasonal increase. Educational and health services added 1,200 jobs, mostly in health care and social assistance. Jobs in manufacturing declined 900 with a majority of the loss occurring in nondurable goods manufacturing.