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Washington County's jobless rate jumped to 10.6% in August

September 24, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • Washington County's jobless rate for August was 10.6 percent, an increase from July's adjusted rate of 9.9 percent, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
Chad Trovinger, Graphic artist

Washington County's jobless rate for August was 10.6 percent, an increase from July's adjusted rate of 9.9 percent, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

In Washington County, 7,048 members of the labor force were without jobs in August, the state website says. The labor force consisted of 66,378 people.

The unemployment rate in Hagerstown was at its highest point of the year in August. The state website says 2,234 people, or 12 percent, of the city's work force were unemployed. The rate was 10.8 percent in July.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Friday that the recent figures indicate the recession is alive and well in Hagerstown.

"Economists say the recession is over, but that's not true," Bruchey said. "We're still working very hard to encourage employment opportunities in Hagerstown."

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Bruchey mentioned VT Industries Inc. as an example of positive growth.

Washington County economic officials announced earlier this week that the company, a manufacturer of laminate countertops, architectural wood doors and stone surfaces, intends to employ about 75 people in the former Kongsberg Automotive building off Western Maryland Parkway. Kongsberg Automotive declared earlier this year that it was closing its doors at the end of October, resulting in the loss of 64 jobs.

Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said the unemployment rate could have increased because of the layoffs at Kongsberg and Northrop Grumman.

Northrup Grumman announced last month that about 53 workers would lose their jobs over the course of the next few months as the company gradually closes its airplane factory north of Hagerstown. Some of those workers were laid off in August, Northrup Grumman spokeswoman Leah Smith said Friday. The facility will close when the lease runs out in December.

Troxell said other indicators for higher unemployment might be traced to job losses in neighboring counties and states. The unemployment rate is affected in Washington County, he said, when residents who live here lose their jobs elsewhere.

"Any time (unemployment) is in double digits, it's a great concern," Troxell said. "We're doing whatever we can to bring that number down."

Troxell said VT Industries Inc., coupled with seasonal retail jobs associated with the upcoming holidays, might help decrease the county's unemployment rate in the coming months.

Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr said the unemployment rate could have increased because construction is wrapping up on the Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown. That project, he said, employed roughly 550 people.

"I don't know of any other construction projects in this area that are going to absorb it," Barr said. "The private sector of the economy isn't doing nearly as well as the economists like to predict."

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