Unemployment rate back on the rise in Washington County

June 24, 2011|By DON AINES |

Reversing a four-month trend, the unemployment rate in Washington County was back on the rise this spring, going from 9.2 percent in April to 9.6 percent in May, according to preliminary state figures released Friday.

 However, while the rate increased, so did the number of people with jobs, which was up by 418 to 61,146. Shadowing that number was an increase of 310 in the number of people listed as jobless to 6,471.

Unemployment in Hagerstown also went up during the month from 9.9 percent to 10.8 percent, according to the monthly labor review from the Maryland Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation.

The number of people working went up by 116 to 16,964, but the number of unemployed rose by more than 200 to 2,063, the state figures said.

"May's increase in the unemployment rate to 9.6 percent reflects what we're seeing in the state of Maryland and across the country," said Rob Feree, the deputy director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

The national unemployment rate also went up in May and the nonseasonally-adjusted rate for Maryland went from 6.6 percent to 6.9 percent, Feree said.

The state's seasonally-adjusted rate was unchanged at 6.8 percent, according to state figures.

"The employment numbers are going up, so people are hiring out there, but it's not at the pace that's needed," Feree said.

"It's nice to see over 400 new jobs added, but there's still a trend of more people entering the labor force that's causing the rate to go up," Feree said.

"We are hearing from local employers, particularly the major distribution and manufacturing companies, that they're planning to hire," Feree said. Some of those companies will require workers with particular skills, he said.

Many college and university students enter the labor force beginning in May, along with high school students looking for summer jobs, one reason the labor force grows in the summer months.

The county started the year with a 10.7 percent unemployment rate, state figures said. In May 2010, the jobless rate in the county was 10 percent.

Washington County's jobless rate was the fourth highest in Maryland, the monthly labor review said. Montgomery and Howard counties were tied for lowest at 5.2 percent.

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