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Unemployment rate drops slightly

May 17, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Washington County's unemployment rate dropped slightly in March, possibly because bad weather discouraged people from looking for work, labor market officials said Friday.

The county's unemployment rate went from 5.5 percent in February to 5.3 percent in March, according to statistics released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

That was still slightly higher than the 5.1 percent unemployment rate of March 2002.

Employment in the county decreased from 68,490 to 68,266, but the size of the labor force decreased even more, said Shanon Wolf, job service director of the Maryland labor department's Hagerstown office.

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Wolf said bad weather might have been to blame.

"That might have had an impact on people looking for certain types of work," she said.

Wolf was not aware of any significant layoffs.

In Frederick County, the unemployment rate also dropped slightly from 3.6 percent in February to 3.4 percent in March.

Statewide, unemployment declined by .3 percentage points to 4.4 percent, according to the labor department.

Seasonal expansion created jobs but the pace of overall economic activity was relatively subdued, the labor department said.

"Even with several challenges, Maryland's economic stability demonstrated job growth and declining unemployment in March," said Labor Secretary James D. Fiedler Jr. "As we move toward summer months, we remain positive that the state will continue job growth and maintain unemployment significantly lower than the nation's level."

March's unemployment data was released late this month because the U.S. Department of Labor revamped the statistical method for calculating the unemployment rate in an effort to make the numbers more accurate.

Normally, unemployment rate and work force information is released the first Friday of the month for two months' prior.

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