Wall Street shed 3,100 workers in March, shrinking New York City's most important generator of jobs to just 169,200 people, the state's Department of Labor reported on Thursday.

The state, which relies on New York City to power its economy, has now lost more than 40 percent of the 400,000 jobs that employers added in the five-year economic growth spurt that ended in 2008, the Labor Department said in a report.

Unemployment rates in both New York City and New York state were unchanged in March, but a labor market analyst for the state, James Brown, cautioned against interpreting that steadiness as the start of a more positive trend.

You can't guarantee it's going to go up evenly in a downturn, Brown said by telephone.

New York City's unemployment rate in March of 8.1 percent is nearly double the year-ago level of 4.6 percent. The state's unemployment rate in March was 7.8 percent, compared with the year-ago rate of 4.8 percent.

Unemployment in New York City topped 11 percent in previous sharp downturns, Brown noted, citing the 1990 to 1991 decline. The unemployment rate in the Bronx, the poorest of the city's five boroughs, hit 10.5 percent in March, down three tenths of a percentage point from February.

The jobless rate for the other four boroughs in March ranged from a low of 7.1 percent in Staten Island to a high of 8.7 percent in Brooklyn.

Economists say each Wall Street job helps create up to three service jobs, ranging from law firms to retail shops.

The number of lost jobs in securities, already down by 31,100 jobs from its December 2000 peak, could increase because workers are not counted among the unemployed until their severance payments have run out, a lengthy period for many on Wall Street.

A few New York City industries did show some firmness. The real estate and leasing sector gained 600 positions in March, though it has lost 2,400 employees over the last 12 months, while business and professional services added 100 people, Brown, the labor market analyst, said.

Still, there are 19,100 fewer people working in business and professional services, which ranges from architects to security guards, than a year ago. This sector's total work force has fallen to 581,600 people.

The insurance industry has held flat at about 56,700 people over the year, Brown said.

One bright spot was a 4,200 job gain by the leisure industry, which includes hotel workers. But Brown noted its performance in February was quite weak.

Construction, which often adds jobs as the weather warms, hired 3,100 people in March. But it has lost 12,400 workers over the year, Brown said, cutting the total to 117,100.

Education accounted for almost all of the 3,200 the people hired in the education and health services category.

(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Leslie Adler)