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Washington Co. jobless rate at 10 percent for second straight month

December 28, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY-- Washington County's unemployment rate in November was 10 percent, the second straight month at that level, according to figures released Monday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The November figure is higher than the state rate of 7.3 percent for November, and on par with the U.S. jobless rate in November of 10 percent, according to figures on the labor department's Web site.

There were 6,793 members of the labor force without jobs in Washington County in November, the state Web site says. That's from a labor force of 67,712.

October's unemployment rate for Washington County was adjusted upward to 10 percent from the preliminary figure of 9.6 percent released previously.

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The county's unemployment rate has been above 9 percent throughout 2009, hitting 9.1 percent in January and fluctuating between that level and a high of 10.4 percent in June. In September, it dropped to 9.3 before rising back to 10 percent in October and November.

Robin L. Ferree, deputy director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said there were no major plant closures or layoffs in October or November to contribute to the boost in unemployment.

"I can't really explain it at first glance," Ferree said.

Ferree said it was interesting to note that the total labor force reported by DLLR for Washington County grew slightly from October to November. The labor force number, which includes employed and unemployed workers, increased by 196 from the October total of 67,512.

"When someone decides they're no longer looking for work, they're taken out of those numbers," Ferree said.

As a result, sometimes higher unemployment numbers are a result of more people seeking work, he said.

"Perhaps people are re-entering the labor market on the signs of the economy recovering," Ferree said.

Those signs include improvement in the stock market, home sales and retail sales, he said.

Construction starts for homes and improvements in Washington County, excluding Hagerstown, totaled $2.2 million in November, up from $1.56 million in October and $2.17 million in November 2008, according to figures in this month's Economic Pulse, which runs in The Herald-Mail. Home sales were also up, with 118 reported in Washington County in November compared to only 60 in November 2008.

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