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Snow left some jobless

April 08, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

A slight rise in Washington County's jobless rate in February was due mainly to a couple of significant snowstorms the previous month, a local Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation official said Friday.

The county's jobless rate rose three-tenths of a percentage point, from 3.3 percent in January to 3.6 percent in February, according to figures released by the department Friday.

The jump can be traced to a snowfall the last week of January, which halted new construction work and led to a flood of unemployment claims the first week of February, said Bruce Massey, unemployment insurance supervisor in the department's Hagerstown office.

According to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site, the area received 21.6 inches of snow and ice - mainly from two heavy snows - between Jan. 25 and Jan. 31.

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During that period, there were at least 8 inches and as much as 16 inches of snow on the ground, according to Keefer's records.

Massey said his office received almost 450 unemployment claims the first full week in February, compared to a little under 200 claims the following week.

He said claims have continued to taper off since then.

The one-week jump in claims came primarily from outdoor construction people working through the winter on new projects, such as The Centre at Hagerstown, he said.

There were also some claims from school employees, including substitute teachers and contractual bus drivers, idled by the snow, Massey said.

"We had a lot of people who filed for just one week of benefits and went right back to work," he said.

Claims continued to come in from seasonal retail employees, as workers who were kept on through post-holiday sales and inventory taking were laid off, Massey said.

Frederick County's jobless rate also rose three-tenths of a percentage point, going from 2.4 percent in January to 2.7 percent in February, according to the labor department figures.

Statewide, the jobless rate was unchanged from January, at 3.5 percent.

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