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Washington Co. jobless rate again tops 10%

June 26, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- In May, Washington County's unemployment rate was more than 10 percent for the third time in four months, according to state figures released Friday.

The county's May rate was 10.1 percent, according to the state Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation (DLLR).

The rate was 10.0 percent in February and 10.5 percent in March, then dropped to 9.7 percent in April.

In May 2008, the county's unemployment rate was 5.1 percent.

Robin Ferree, deputy director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said the county has had notable jobs cuts and business closings this year, but he wasn't sure if anything major happened in May.

DLLR said the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last month was 7.2 percent, up four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month.

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The state's rate remains well below the national rate, which was 9.4 percent in May, up from 8.9 percent in April, DLLR said.

"Nearly 25,000 Marylanders lost their jobs during May," DLLR said in a June 19 press release. "While a portion of this decline was absorbed by the exodus of workers from the job market, the statewide unemployment rolls expanded by just over 12,800 people to reach a level of 212,494 in May."

Construction, which DLLR said "has been battered by the economic downturn," changed little in May, according to the release.

Ferree said Washington County has seen the decline in both residential and commercial construction.

"In the county, permit applications are down from one year ago," he said.

DLLR said industry, administrative and support services, and leisure and hospitality were segments of the work force with increases in jobs.

Thomas B. Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the number of local leisure and hospitality jobs has gone up in recent years.

"This was one bright, shining part of our economy," he said.

Riford said the tourism industry has fared better than other parts of the economy as people travel shorter distances within the state.

A recent report showed tourism sales tax revenue rising in Maryland, with Washington County having one of the four highest increases, he said.

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