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Jobless rate sees 'typical' increase

January 03, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Washington County's unemployment rate increased slightly to 3.7 percent in November as a result of temporary layoffs, a seasonal tightening of weather-dependent jobs, and some workers temporarily pulling out of the job search, state labor officials said this week.

Employment dropped and unemployment increased from October to November, although the numbers represented a usual decline in employment just before the holiday season, said Shanon Wolf, job service director of the Hagerstown office of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Employment - the number of people with jobs - fell from 69,252 employees in October to 69,022 in November, a drop of 230 job holders, according to preliminary estimates released this week by the state labor department.

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Unemployment - the number of people actively looking for work - rose from 2,475 people in October to 2,635 in November, an increase of 160 job seekers.

The county's unemployment rate increased from 3.5 to 3.7 percent, but is smaller than it was the same time last year, when it was 4 percent. In the same period last year, there were 2,872 people seeking work.

"It's really very typical for there to be a slight increase (in unemployment) between October and November," Wolf said. "Two-tenths of a percent increase is pretty common."

She said the factors that usually cause the October-November drop are seasonally related.

Wolf said the civilian labor force - those who have jobs as well as those seeking jobs who are not in prison - usually shrinks this time of year because people looking for work related to the Christmas holiday usually have found jobs or quit seeking work by November.

Washington County's labor force stood at 71,657 people in November, 70 fewer workers than October.

Also, "you have less construction going on. You had a lot of rainy weather, or colder weather, so some work is harder to do," Wolf said.

Some major layoffs in November were not reflected in the state's monthly survey, which was conducted the week of Nov. 12.

Bob Ruppenkamp, director of the Cumberland, Md., unemployment insurance claims center for the labor department, had one significant claim from Washington County. Breyer's Ice Cream in Hagerstown furloughed 275 workers the last week of November, but they were rehired Dec. 1, Ruppenkamp said.

Not listed in Ruppenkamp's data was a layoff in late November of 53 employees at GST AutoLeather - formerly known as Garden State Tanning - from the company's Williamsport area leather-cutting plant.

Maryland's overall unemployment rate for November increased from 4 percent to 4.1 percent. That represented a statewide increase in unemployment of 3,724 workers for a total of 120,658 unemployed workers versus slightly more than 2.8 million employed workers.

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