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January's jobless rate up 1.1 percent

March 24, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Washington County's unemployment rate took a big jump in January, but that is typical for the month, the head of the local labor department office said Friday.

The county's unemployment rate increased from 4.1 percent in December to 5.2 percent in January, according to preliminary estimates released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Two adjustments were made by the U.S. Department of Labor that affect civilian labor force population, employment and unemployment numbers, but they had a negligible effect on the unemployment rate, Maryland labor officials said.

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"If you look at previous Januaries, January tends to be higher," said Shanon Wolf, job service director of the Maryland labor department's Hagerstown office.

In January 2002, the unemployment rate for Washington County was 6.3 percent, taking into account the new adjustments using Census 2000 data.

January's unemployment rate is usually higher because people are returning to the labor force as they end a holiday seasonal job or look for a job during their semester break or as part of a new year's resolution, Wolf said.

Weather also can play a factor, affecting outdoor jobs such as construction, Wolf said.

Wolf said there were no huge layoffs in Washington County in January that would have accounted for the increase in the unemployment rate. Most January layoffs were due to manufacturing shutdowns from extended holiday vacations, she said.

Frederick County's unemployment rate also rose in January to 3.4 percent, according to preliminary numbers. The county's jobless rate was 2.5 percent in December.

Usually the unemployment rate on the county level for two months' earlier is released on the first Friday of the month. The release of January's unemployment rates was delayed while federal labor officials reviewed statistical methods to make sure the numbers are as accurate as can be.

The employment numbers, including the civilian labor force population, were adjusted to take into account Census 2000 work force-related numbers, said Mary Jo Yeisley, administrator with Maryland's Office of Labor Market Analysis.

The latest adjustment took into account work populations that may have been missed before, such as self-employed people, labor officials said.

Also, a one-time population adjustment was made to the labor force and employment numbers based on the monthly current population survey conducted by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Yeisley said.

State labor officials have recalculated the 2002 monthly employment data based on the adjusted statistical method, Yeisley said. They will do the same for data from 2000 and 2001.

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