Howard County's unemployment rose this July by .7 percent over July 1989 and is the first increase this year, according to estimates by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.
But at 2.9 percent, the county is still competing with Montgomery County's 2.7 percent for the state's lowest unemployment rate. Howard had the lowest rate in July 1989 with 2.2 percent.
Statewide, the July unemployment percentage was 4.5, up from 3.6 for July 1989. The national percentage for July also rose, to 5.5 this year from 5.3 last year.
The monthly DEED report showed that 2,817 of Howard County's civilian labor force of 96,832 were out of work in July. That number also represented a rise from the June unemployment rate of 2.2 percent.
"I frankly don't think it's meaningful," said Buddy Roogow, county administrator, of the slight rise in Howard's July unemployment this year.
"An unemployment trend of 4 percent is considered full employment," Roogow said. "Anything less than that represents people in transition."
While some experts hold that opinion, many others dispute it and have dropped the term "full employment" altogether, said Curtis M. Kane, a spokesman for DEED.
Roogow said that while the county is in an "enviable" employment position and even has a labor shortage for service and other low-paying jobs, current employment trends may be "a more serious harbinger of things to come."
"More significant and more serious is what is happening across the state and across the country ... which seems to represent a softening of the economy in general," he said.