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Washington County jobless rate fell to 9.7 percent in July

August 28, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- The unemployment rate in Washington County fell to 9.7 percent in July, according to figures released Friday morning.

The county's jobless rate declined from June's seasonally adjusted figure of 10.4 percent, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation reported.

It was the first time since April the county's jobless rate fell below double digits.

The drop does not necessarily signal the end of the county's unemployment woes, said Peter Thomas, executive director of the Western Maryland Consortium, a regional work force development agency.

"It's probably not time to have a parade yet," Thomas said.

Because the state's unemployment figures are generated by a statistical formula rather than an actual head count, changes are not always a good indicator of unemployment trends, he said.

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"I would like to think 9.7 is the beginning of a trend downward, but at the same time I wouldn't be surprised if it's not that," Thomas said.

For instance, the drop could reflect people who have exhausted their unemployment and are no longer in the count, he said.

Thomas said Western Maryland is seeing some hiring activity, but it's limited and consists primarily of businesses refilling turnover.

"We're not seeing any large numbers (of jobs), but we are seeing people going to work," he said.

Thomas said he suspected the county would continue to see unacceptably high unemployment numbers for some time.

Washington County's July unemployment rate remained higher than state and national jobless rates. The national rate for July was 9.4 percent and the Maryland rate was 7.3 percent.

The state reported 6,662 Washington County residents were unemployed in July, out of a total labor force of 68,332.

In June, there were 7,144 unemployed out of a total labor force of 68,785, according to state figures.

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