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Washington Co. jobless rate hits 11.9 percent

April 02, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS
  • Washington County's unemployment rate shot up almost a full percentage point in February to 11.9 percent, higher than both the state and national rates, according to statistics released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County's unemployment rate shot up almost a full percentage point in February to 11.9 percent, higher than both the state and national rates, according to statistics released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

DLLR lists the county's adjusted January unemployment rate at 11 percent, higher than the preliminary 10.9 percent rate released previously.

February's rate was the county's highest since at least 1990, the earliest year for which comparable data is available. County unemployment data before 1990 is no longer considered official because of differences in methodology, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics officials said.

Hagerstown's unemployment rate in February was even higher than the county's, at 12.6 percent, DLLR data shows. That's higher than any other Maryland city listed, including Baltimore (11.5 percent) and Frederick (7.8 percent).

Western Maryland Labor Exchange Administrator Suzette Snyder attributed that difference to Hagerstown's dependence on manufacturing jobs, which have been among the hardest hit by the recession.

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Snyder said she did not know why the county had such a large increase in unemployment from January to February.

"I don't know of any large employers that released employees," she said.

However, Snyder said the area had experienced layoffs "everywhere, in every field."

"I'm hearing engineers are being laid off, medical staff -- it's hitting all aspects of employment," she said.

One factor that could have contributed to high unemployment in February was the heavy snow that smothered the region for the better part of a week.

Snyder said snow days cut down on the number of people who were able to seek jobs through the Hagerstown One-Stop Job Center in February, with that office serving 2,091 people in February compared to 2,811 people in March.

According to DLLR, Washington County had 7,988 workers on unemployment in February out of a labor force of 67,127.

The Maryland unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in February, up from 8.2 percent in January.

The national unemployment rate in both January and February was 9.7, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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