Skagit County added 1,000 jobs in March, its strongest month of jobs growth since June, according to a state employment report released Tuesday.

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department (ESD), said spring typically brings an uptick in hiring, but countywide and statewide numbers show much more robust growth this year.

“We are opening up and sending kids back to school and we are able to get back into the workplace,” she said.

COVID-19 vaccinations are also playing a role.

“As people are getting vaccinated, we’re seeing the job market grow as people’s confidence increases and perceived safety improves,” Vance-Sherman said.

She said many are accustomed to living with the COVID-19 pandemic and have adopted new behaviors, such as mask-wearing.

“We have new habits and are navigating the world a little bit differently now than we were a year ago,” she said.

Meanwhile, the county’s unemployment rate fell to 7% in March, nearly reaching pre-COVID-19 levels, according to figures released Tuesday by the ESD.

County adds jobs, some industries may lag

Before the pandemic, the county had 51,700 payroll jobs across nonfarm industries in March 2020, according to ESD’s employment data.

Following job losses last spring, the number of jobs fell to 45,100, a nearly 13% decline.

In her Northwest Washington jobs report for March, Vance-Sherman wrote most industries experienced COVID-19-related jobs losses over the past year.

She said while there was an “impressive” bounce back last summer, job growth plateaued in the fall and winter.

With indoor dining restrictions relaxed and schools bringing back more students to classrooms, the leisure and hospitality and government sectors saw the strongest growth in March, Vance-Sherman wrote in her report.

In March, the county’s leisure and hospitality sector added 300 jobs and the government sector 300 jobs. The mining, logging and construction sector added 200 jobs.

Skagit County had 48,700 payroll jobs in March, still about 3,000 fewer than it had pre-pandemic.

Jobs recovery is uneven, depending on the industry.

Skagit County’s manufacturing sector has been holding steady at 6,100 jobs since November, and had almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels last summer, according to ESD data.

John Sternlicht, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County (EDASC), said many manufacturers were able to adapt to pandemic safety requirements and some have grown.

Other industries have fared worse.

{p class=”p1”}”(The pandemic) has disproportionately affected folks in the service industry — retail, food and beverage,” Sternlicht said.

{p class=”p1”}The county’s leisure and hospitality sector — which includes bars, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues — reached a low of 3,600 jobs last April, according to ESD’s employment data.

{p class=”p1”}In March, the sector had climbed back up to 4,100 jobs, but has a long way to go to reach the 5,300 jobs it had during peak spring tourism season in April 2019.

{p class=”p1”}Vance-Sherman said she expects there will be a lag in recovery of the leisure and hospitality sector. She said that is because businesses in that industry were