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Official says unemployment increase is typical

March 11, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Washington County's unemployment rate increase from 4.3 to 5 percent in January is typical considering the cold weather and seasonal job layoffs that occur after the holidays, a labor official said Wednesday.

Cold weather slows outdoor work such as construction and retailers tend to lay off extra workers in January that they hired for the Christmas shopping season, said Bill Kelly, job service supervisor with the Hagerstown office of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The average temperature in the Hagerstown area in January was 24.9 degrees and the total snowfall that month was 18.6 inches, according to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site at i4weather.net.

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The county's unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in January 2003 and 6.3 percent in January 2002, according to records at the state labor department's Web site.

Another contributing factor to the unemployment rate is the closing of GST AutoLeather's cutting plant near Williamsport. The company's president announced in November that the plant would close and workers gradually would be laid off. The plant's last full day of production was Jan. 30.

Company President Mark Lecher said Jan. 29 that the closing would cost 158 jobs.

In January, there were 650 more unemployed people for a total of 3,646 unemployed people in Washington County, according to the labor department.

The civilian labor force in Washington County grew by 2,496 people to 72,586 people in January. The number of people in the county with a job also increased by 1,846 people to 68,940 employed people, according to the labor department.

The preliminary estimates for state unemployment information for January were released Wednesday. They usually are distributed on the first Friday of the month, but the data was delayed because the method used to estimate the unemployment rate was revamped in an effort to make the numbers more accurate, according to a labor department statement.

As a result of the revisions, state labor department officials don't think January's labor force data should be compared with previous data because those numbers were not revised, according to a department press release.

The unemployment rate in neighboring Frederick County, Md., increased from 2.9 percent to 3.3 percent in January, according to preliminary estimates.

Statewide, the jobless rate decreased from 4.6 percent in December to 4.3 percent in January, according to preliminary estimates.

Nationally, the unemployment rate also decreased, from 5.7 percent to 5.6 percent.

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