Jobless rate in county drops 1 percent


Expected seasonal hiring and an increase in warehouse jobs combined to shrink Washington County's March jobless rate to 4.4 percent - a full percentage point below what it was in March 1998, according to a local Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation official.

The county's jobless rate was down more than half of a percentage point from February, despite slight growth in the available work force, according to figures released by the labor department on Friday.

The county's decline - from 5.1 percent in February - mirrored similar drops in Frederick County, Md., the state as a whole and the country, according to the figures.

"The figures are pretty encouraging," said Bruce Massey, unemployment insurance supervisor for the labor department's Hagerstown office.

Employment in Washington County grew from 66,815 workers in February to 67,683 in March, according to labor department figures.

In the same time, unemployment rolls decreased by just under 500 workers, according to the figures.


Massey said he expects the jobless rate will continue to decline in April and May considering the substantial decrease in unemployment claims in Washington County.

The increase in the civilian labor force, from 70,405 workers in February to 70,777 workers in March, reflects workers in seasonal fields, like construction and landscaping, who reentered the market as more jobs became available, Massey said.

In addition to an increase in construction-sector and other outdoor jobs, there are usually increases in retail jobs related to building, agriculture, gardening and other seasonal activities, he said.

The county's growing warehouse industry increased its employment levels in March and April, Massey said.

Most of the local warehouse operations, including TruServ, Tandy and DOT Foods, have been hiring, he said.

The jobless rate in Frederick County went from 3.3 percent in February to 2.7 percent in March, according to labor department figures. The rate was 3.7 percent in March 1998.

The Maryland jobless rate dropped from 4.3 percent in February to 3.7 percent in March, according to the figures. The rate was 4.9 percent in March 1998.

Nationally, the jobless rate inched down 0.3 percent, from 4.7 percent in February to 4.4 percent in March, according to labor department figures. The rate was 5 percent in March 1998.

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