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County jobless rate is highest in nearly a year

April 09, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County's unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent in February, down from the same month a year ago but the highest it's been in almost a year, according to records at the state Labor Department's Web site.

The county's jobless rate in February 2003 was 5.8 percent. In March 2003 it was 5.6 percent, according to Labor Department records. The lowest the county's unemployment rate dipped in the past year was 3.8 percent last October.

Shanon Wolf, job service director in the Hagerstown office of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said February's figures are routine.

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"This is a very typical pattern," Wolf said Thursday. "Going back to 1997, every year but two the figures have been similar in February."

The two years in which there was a substantial increase in February unemployment were characterized by January weather that was so severe that few employers were hiring.

"Employers traditionally start hiring again in the spring," Wolf said.

In February, there were 3,711 Washington County residents on the jobless rolls, 180 more than the 3,531 in January, according to the Labor Department.

The civilian labor force in the county grew by 371 people, from 72,266 in January to 72,637 in February. The number of people in the county with jobs increased by 191, from 68,735 in January to 68,926 in February, according to the Labor Department.

The preliminary estimates for state unemployment information for February were released Thursday.

The previously announced January figure of 5 percent unemployment in Washington County was revised to 4.9 percent.

In Frederick County, the unemployment rate remained at 3.3 percent from January to February.

Statewide, the jobless rate decreased from 4.2 percent in January to 4 percent in February, according to preliminary estimates.

Nationally, the unemployment rate remained at 5.6 percent in February.

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