Unemployment rate up slightly during holiday season

Tim Troxell says gain is not unusual because labor force tends to increase at the same time

January 28, 2011|By DON AINES |
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic artist

Often a time for extra hiring in the retail and wholesale sectors, the holidays last year failed to bring the gift of more jobs to Washington County, according to new state figures released Friday.

In fact, the unemployment rate for the county actually rose from 9.8 percent in November to 10.1 percent in December, preliminary figures from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation show.

But the increase was not unusual for the area, said Tim Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

"If you go back and look at it for the past couple of years, you'll see the unemployment rate increased from November to December," Troxell said.

That has, indeed, happened each year since 2007, according to DLLR figures. Troxell said the labor force tends to increase near the holidays as people seek jobs or extra income for Christmas.

Seasonal decreases also occur in construction, and the manufacturing sector continues to struggle, Troxell said.

The final monthly report for the county for the year meant that the jobless rate for all of 2010 averaged in double digits at 10.3 percent, having peaked at 11.9 percent in February.

The number of people employed rose by 212 to 59,720, but the number listed as jobless was up by 243 to 6,729, according to the figures. The labor force, the combination of those working, unemployed and seeking work, rose by 500 to 66,449.

Hagerstown's jobless rate increased in December from 10.3 percent to 10.8 percent. The city averaged a 10.9 percent unemployment rate for 2010, hitting 11.9 percent in February.

Unemployment averaged 9.7 percent in 2009; 5.7 percent in 2008 and 4.4 percent in 2007.

The city added 65 jobs in December, hitting 16,516, but the number of jobless rose by 102 to an even 2,000, according to the DLLR report.

By contrast, Frederick city had a jobless rate of 6.9 percent in December, matching its average for all of  2010, the report said.

Frederick benefits from being within the economic influence and commuting distance of Washington, D.C., Troxell said.

Maryland's jobless rate for December was 7.1 percent, according to DLLR. Howard County had the lowest rate at 5.1 percent, while Washington County ranked ahead of only Baltimore City, Dorcester and Worcester counties for the highest unemployment rate.

The U.S. unemployment rate in December was 9.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Things seem to be doing a little better .... We've seen a little bit of an uptick" for local businesses, Troxell said.

Still, while the economy did not deteriorate over the course of the year, there was not much recovery, he said.

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