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Washington County's unemployment rate rose in August

September 28, 2012|DAN DEARTH and CALEB CALHOUN | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com and caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com

Washington County’s unemployment rate rose to 8.7 percent in August, up from July’s adjusted rate of 8.5 percent, according to state figures released Friday.

The jobless rate was 10 percent at this time last year. It was 11.1 percent in August 2010.

Hagerstown resident Bob Wantz, 80, said that even with the increase in the jobless rate in the county, there are still signs of encouragement.

“The economy is going up slightly, but it’s nothing to dance in the streets about,” he said. “More cars are being sold this year, and more properties are being sold locally. Time is the only healer, and we didn’t get in this shape overnight.”

Wantz said he is slightly encouraged about the national economy but that the unemployment numbers cannot always be trusted.

“Those figures are very misleading because they don’t count people who have given up looking for jobs,” he said. “The stock market had been heading north, though, and anything at this point is encouraging.”

In Washington County, 6,028 members of the labor force were classified as unemployed in August, compared with 5,905 in July, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s website.

There were 69,651 people in Washington County’s labor force in August, according to DLLR figures.

Mary Ellen Pryor, 76, of Hagerstown, said she is optimistic about the economy in the county despite the jobless rate.

“I think it’s on the upswing,” she said. “Even though downtown (Hagerstown) has been going downhill for a while, I see some new things happening, and it should help the economy.”

Not all residents, however, were encouraged.

Don Viar, 62, of Hagerstown, said he does not see the local or national economies improving.

“You just don’t see people buying,” he said. “We need to help small businesses out. That’s where all the employees are.”

Statewide, Maryland’s unemployment rate increased from 7 percent in July to 7.1 percent in August.

The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in August, a decrease from 8.3 percent in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website.

The national jobless rate at this time last year was 9.1 percent.

Viar said people can simply look at what is happening in downtown Hagerstown to see why the jobless rate is so much higher in Washington County than it is nationally or in the state.

At 10.3 percent, the jobless rate in Hagerstown was well above the county average. Statistics show that 1,983 of the 19,307 people in the city’s work force were without jobs.

“Nobody’s opening new businesses, and if you look around downtown (Hagerstown), you can look at the stores that are closed,” he said. “Even though I think there are some really cool things happening in town, there’s still a long way to go.”

Hagerstown resident Delores Bellinfantie, 52, said she thinks the local and national economies are both slightly improving, but the jobless rate is not always the most accurate measurement.

“Even if people are accepted into jobs, the pay is low,” she said. “The economy is improving somewhat, but not to the extent that it should be.”

Washington County had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Only Somerset County (9.8 percent), Dorchester County (10.1 percent) and Baltimore City (11 percent) had higher unemployment rates, the DLLR website said.

Montgomery County had the lowest unemployment rate at 5.2 percent.

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