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.