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Jobless rate at 4.9 percent

March 05, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

The unemployment rate in Washington County increased to 4.9 percent in January, but the jobless rate was still a full percentage point lower than January 1998, according to information released Friday.

The number of county residents who were employed dropped from 68,294 in December to 66,644 in January, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

That increased the unemployment rate, which was a record-low 3.2 percent in December.

Economists expected the increase, however, due to seasonal factors.

"January tends to go up," said Shanon Wolf, manager of the labor department's Hagerstown office.

Wolf said the rise is due to a variety of factors. Weather-related layoffs in fields like construction put more people out of work, she said.

In addition, post-Christmas layoffs in retail contribute to a higher jobless rate, Wolf said.

College students on break who look for jobs but cannot find them are added to a pool of people who are considered unemployed, Wolf said.

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The employment rate in Washington County lagged behind neighboring Frederick County, as well as the state and national averages.

The Frederick County unemployment rate rose from 1.9 percent in December to 3.1 percent in January. Nationally, the jobless rate was 4.8 percent in January, up from 4.0 percent the previous month. The state average was 4.1 percent, up from 3.5 percent.

Wolf said Western Maryland is hit harder than the rest of the state in January because the weather is more severe in the western part of the state.

But she pointed to the 1 percent drop from January 1998 as evidence of a healthy economy in the county.

"We're doing well," she said. "This was a fairly normal adjustment."

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