The seven-county Pittsburgh region added 9,000 jobs in March, but the economy still has 76,500 fewer jobs than a year ago, just before the pandemic took hold, according to state labor data released Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh region — Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties — saw the nonfarm jobs count rise to 1,096,500 in March.

The increase was led by the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 3,400 jobs as more vaccinated customers patronize restaurants and taverns, giving people more confidence about the safety of dining out.

The region’s construction industry added 2,900 jobs in March and manufacturing employment increased by 1,700 jobs.

The unemployment rate, adjusted for seasonal hiring factors, remained at 7.5% for March, the same level since January. The jobless rate is 1.6 percentage points above the March 2020 rate of 5.9%. Because of employer surveys conducted in the middle of the month for the jobs report, the full impact of the shutdowns that took effect in late March 2020, were not seen in the March 2020 data.

While the raw job numbers for March showed an improving economy as the state continues to open up from the tighter restrictions imposed last year during the pandemic, Lauren Riegel, an industry analyst for the state’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, said the increase was not unexpected.

“Some of that 9,000 job increase was seasonal. It was not unusual … but a little bit more than average,” Riegel said.

The Pittsburgh region saw an increase in eight of the economy’s 11 supersectors, but remained below the March 2020 levels in all 11 supersectors.

The ranks of the jobless — 87,800 as adjusted for seasonal factors — was the lowest number this year, but 17,000 more than in March 2020.

The unemployment rate in Allegheny County fell to 7.0% in March, a drop from 7.4% in February and Westmoreland’s rate was at 7.1%, down from 7.5% in February.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .