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Jobless rate up slightly

December 03, 1999|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Washington County's jobless rate inched up from a record low of 2.7 percent in September to 2.8 percent in October, according to preliminary figures released by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation on Friday.

Frederick County's jobless rate remained at 2 percent in October, according to the figures.

Despite the rise, Washington County's rate is still low and doesn't reflect a decline in job opportunities in the county, said Shanon Wolf, manager of the department's Hagerstown office.

The number of jobs in the county increased, and there were more people working in October than there were in September.

However, there were also more job seekers, Wolf said.

She attributes that increase in part to the mild weather, which kept job seekers in seasonal fields like construction and landscaping from dropping out of the job market. At the same time, new retail opportunities in the county brought out early holiday job seekers, she said.

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There were 71,547 workers in the civilian labor force - including those with jobs and those actively looking - in October, 404 more than in September, according to the state figures.

Meanwhile, the number of employed workers increased by 327 to 69,576 workers.

The labor market is so tight that some employers are having a hard time finding workers to fill holiday jobs, Wolf said. Recruiting has become very competitive.

"If you drive around, you'll see an awful lot of help wanted signs up," she said. "Job seekers have a lot of places to choose from."

With the economy booming and unemployment so low, virtually every type of business is having difficulty finding qualified workers, said Fred K. Teeter Jr., executive vice president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

"It's a real problem for everybody," said Teeter, who said many companies have had to lean on existing workers to get the work done.

While it hasn't had problems getting temporary workers to help with the holiday rush, Fujicolor Processing Inc. in Williamsport has had a problem filling permanent jobs for some time now, said Wendy Mellott, who works in human resources at the company.

It has ranged from 12 to 15 openings for all types of lab jobs, Mellott said.

Jobs start at $6.50 to $7.59 per hour for first shift, depending on the job, with differentials for second and third shifts, she said.

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