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Washington County jobless rate declines for third consecutive month

December 22, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

Washington County's unemployment rate has reached its lowest level since the recession hit in late 2008, dropping from 8.6 percent in October to 8.2 percent in November for its third consecutive month of decline, according to preliminary state figures released Thursday.

The downward trend has things looking up for people like James Harbaugh of Hagerstown. The machinist was unemployed for more than two years before getting a job washing dishes at a local restaurant earlier this year.

For the past few months, however, Harbaugh has been working full time as a machine operator for VT Industries, a manufacturer of laminate countertops, which opened a facility on Western Maryland Parkway in the spring.

"Everybody kept saying don't give up," Harbaugh said of the encouragement he received from people while he was searching for work. That included officials at the Western Maryland Consortium and the One Stop Job Center who assisted him in his search.

"They were the biggest factors in helping me get the job," Harbaugh said.

Having full-time work again is good news going into the holidays, he said.

"I'm real happy," he said.

The county's jobless rate in August was 9.7 percent and has been falling with each ensuing month.

The number of people working rose by 445 to 60,879, while the number of people listed as jobless dropped by 435 to 5,403, according to figures released by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

"It looks like a lot of those (jobs) are probably associated with people ramping up for the holiday season," said Timothy Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission. "Hopefully, it's a good sign of improving economic conditions in Washington County and across the nation."

The number of unemployed dropped by about 1,800 since the beginning of the year, the state report said.

The last time the jobless rate was below 8.2 percent was the 7.5 percent rate recorded in December 2008, when the national recession hit full stride, according to department figures. Unemployment rose to 9.2 percent in January 2009 and remained above 9 percent until October's 8.6 percent rate.

The number of employed Hagerstown residents was up by 124 to 16,890, while the number of jobless dipped by 22 to 1,675. The city's jobless rate fell from 9.2 to 9 percent in November, the report said.

Hagerstown unemployment started the year at 11 percent, the report said.

Maryland's jobless rate fell from 7.2 percent to 6.9 percent in November, the department reported. The national unemployment rate is 8.6 percent.

The state added 7,400 jobs in November, 2,600 of them in the retail sector, which traditionally expands as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.

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