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County's jobless rate at 3.2 percent

September 07, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

Washington County's jobless rate dipped back down in July, but not as low as it had been in May when it hit 3 percent, the county's lowest jobless rate in at least a decade.

The county's unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in July, despite the closing of the BF Goodrich plant near Hagerstown Regional Airport, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

That's down from the 3.3 percent in June.

The aircraft component manufacturing company stopped production on July 23, resulting in the loss of 200 jobs.

The Richfield, Ohio-based BF Goodrich Aerospace/Aerostructures Group announced last December that it would close the plant, citing the streamlining and restructuring of its operations.

The local labor department office got some unemployment claims from former Goodrich employees, but overall the closing didn't significantly impact the jobless rate, said Bruce Massey, unemployment insurance supervisor for the local office.

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The jobless rate looks "real good," Massey said.

"July is peak hiring season. This is the month most of your summer hires appear. Almost all of your employers are hiring, especially seasonal people," Massey said.

The area also saw an increase in the civilian labor force from 71,934 people in June to 72,538 people in July as students entered the labor market, he said.

"They've been able to fill the needs out there. ... There are still a lot of help-wanted ads," Massey said.

July used to be a month where the county would see the jobless rate go up or remain steady because of plants shutting down for vacation, Massey said.

That has changed over the years as the local economy has shifted from manufacturing to more service jobs, he said.

The labor office received claims from only one vacation shut down this past July - C.M. Offray & Son Inc., also known as Maryland Ribbon, Massey said.

The plant usually shuts down production for a week in early July to do preventive maintenance on the equipment, said Hagerstown Plant Manager Richard P. Lee.

This year the plant shut down only two of the three work shifts for a week, leaving one shift to meet increasing customer demand, Lee said.

The number of people employed in the county increased from 69,596 people in June to 70,207 people in July, according to the labor department.

In Frederick County, the unemployment rate remained steady at 2.2 percent, according to preliminary figures.

Statewide, the jobless rate dipped slightly from 4 percent in June to 3.9 percent in July.

The ranks of the state's employed reached a record high of 2,773,759 workers in July, according to the labor department.

"Maryland's booming economy continues to grow, and has pushed our employment levels to a record high for the fifth straight month," Gov. Parris Glendening said in a statement.

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