Maryland's unemployment rate jumped by 0.7 percent to an estimated 6 percent in December, edging past the national rate of 5.9 percent, according to the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.
The number of Marylanders looking for work increased by 16,285 during the month of December to a total of 148,161 unemployed. Total employment dropped to 2.33 million from 2.5 million in November.
Nationally, unemployment rose from 5.8 percent in November to 5.9 percent in December.
In the Baltimore metropolitan area, the rate of joblessness rose from 5.6 percent to 6.8 percent during the month. The estimated unemployment rates in the region ranged from 4 percent in Howard County to 9.8 percent in Baltimore City.
Layoffs in the automobile industry and holiday shutdowns in other companies contributed to the unemployment in the area, according to a press release today from DEED.
The lowest unemployment rate in the state was in Montgomery County, where the rate was 3.3 percent. The highest rate was in Worcester Country at 15.3 percent.
And, the state's employment picture probably will get worse, said Barry P. Brownstein, associate professor of economics at the University of Baltimore.
Unemployment will grow as the recession gets steeper, he said. The employment situation will be made worse if the state enacts new taxes, Brownstein said, as Gov. William Donald Schaefer has proposed.
"What we should be thinking about now is tax cuts and not tax increases," Brownstein said, adding that more money should be put into the hands of private individuals.
The rising unemployment rate is straining the state's unemployment insurance program, according to a DEED official. But DEED secretary J. Randall Evans said the fund remains solvent.
For the entire state, unemployment was increased by seasonal drops in food processing, hotel, amusements, agricultural services and business services, DEED said. Automobile manufacturing and restaurants also experiences downturns as consumer spending dropped, DEED said.
However, these declines were partially offset by hiring in the areas of general merchandise, apparel and food stores, health services, trucking and local government.