County jobless rate jumps

December 01, 2000

County jobless rate jumps

By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

Washington County's unemployment rate increased more than a full percentage point in October, but shouldn't be cause for concern, a local employment official said Friday.

The jobless rate climbed from 2.4 percent in September to 3.6 percent in October, according to preliminary estimates released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The last time the county jobless rate reached 3.6 percent was in February.

The dramatic shift in the unemployment rate was due to expansion in the labor force, a slowdown in the construction industry and Pangborn Corp.'s decision to shut down its production plant, labor officials said.

"I think most of it is based on the amount of people coming into the workforce because of Christmas hiring," said Bill Kelly, Job Service supervisor with the labor department's local office.


While the county's unemployed went from 1,641 people in September to 2,579 people in October, both the number of people in the labor force and the number employed increased in October, according to the labor department.

The labor force ballooned from 69,196 people to 70,977, while the number of employed jumped from 67,555 to 68,398, the labor department reported.

Many people, probably including housewives and students, began taking retail jobs for the holiday season, boosting the number of people in the labor force, Kelly said.

The unemployment rate also was affected by the layoff of all 100 production employees at Pangborn. The company made machines that clean and harden metals.

Only two or three of the former Pangborn workers have gone to the Western Maryland Consortium for job service assistance, said Peter Thomas, the consortium's executive director.

Thomas said he expects more of them will visit the consortium after the holidays.

The consortium can help them determine if their skills are in demand in the local labor market, Thomas said. If their skills aren't in demand and they are willing to be retrained, the consortium can help them, he said.

The local labor department will hold a job-seeking seminar for the former Pangborn workers at Hagerstown Community College on Dec. 18-19, Kelly said. The workers should receive notice of the seminar next week.

Frederick County's unemployment rate held steady in October at 1.9 percent, which is what it was a year ago, the labor department reported.

Statewide, the unemployment rate rose slightly from 3.4 percent to 3.5 percent in October. That's still below the national jobless rate, which was 3.6 percent that month.

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