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Washington Co. jobless rate hits 9.9%

April 03, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County's unemployment rate hit 9.9 percent in February, higher than both the state and national rates for that month.

Washington County's jobless rate rose from 9.1 percent in January, according to the latest figures from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

In February of 2008, the county's unemployment rate was 5.3 percent.

The Maryland jobless rate in February was 6.7 percent, up from 6.2 percent in January, according to the Maryland department.

The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent in February, up from 7.6 percent in January, according to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov/cps.

While there were no major company layoffs reported in February, the "domino effect" was starting to take its toll on smaller companies whose livelihoods are closely linked to larger employers, said Suzette Snyder, Western Maryland Labor Exchange administrator.

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As people tighten their belts, other industries are feeling the pinch, especially those in service categories.

"I talked with two hairdressers recently who told me people are still coming in, but not as often," Snyder said.

During February, Snyder had no requests from any employers in Washington, Allegany or Garrett counties for visits tied to layoffs, which she said she took as a good sign.

Some employers are still laying off and others aren't expanding, which is having an effect on job hopefuls seeking work through temp agencies, Snyder said.

More than 6,755 Washington County residents were unemployed in February out of a labor force of about 61,175 according to the state department.

Snyder said the numbers were affected because residents were collecting unemployment benefits longer due to extensions passed by Congress late last year.

Unemployment insurance recipients were notified in mid-December they were eligible for a seven-week extension, for a total of 20 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation on top of the normal 26 weeks of benefits, according to the state labor department.

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