Jobless rate hits record low again

February 04, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

How low can the Washington County jobless rate go?

That's getting to be a serious question now that December figures show another record low jobless rate of 2.3 percent. That is lower than Maryland's overall 2.8 percent and the nation's 3.7 percent.

"It's truly a job seekers market in Washington County," said Shanon Wolf, job services director for the Maryland Job Service.

What Wolf means is there is so much demand by employers for employees that prospective workers can shop around for the best deal.

Released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the December jobless rate dropped another three-tenths of a percentage point from November's rate, which was also a record.


December's drop was partly because of people voluntarily leaving the workforce after the holidays, Wolf said.

But Wolf said the key factor continues to be unprecedented economic growth.

"So many companies in Washington County have added so many jobs," Wolf said.

That trend, especially in the retail and restaurant arenas, is continuing at boom levels.

But what is boom to some is bust to others, Wolf said.

"The lower-end jobs like part-time shift work with no benefits aren't being filled," Wolf said. 'Some fast food employers are even putting 'help wanted' ads on their menus."

Others have been heard on radio ads, promoting their food and touting job openings that start at $6 an hour - all in the same advertisement.

Older workers are also benefiting from this current phenomenon because employers are willing to take a chance on them due to their need to fill slots, Wolf said.

The county's jobless rate was 3.2 percent in December 1998, according to labor department figures.

Frederick County's jobless rate was 1.6 in December, compared with 1.8 percent in November.

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening called the state's overall low unemployment rate an historic achievement for the state.

But he warned against complacency.

"Businesses tell us that the key to their future growth is a well-educated, well-trained workforce," he said. "Record investments in education will given students the tools they need to succeed."

The Herald-Mail Articles