Jobless Rate Up To 7.4%

County Figure Doubles Over Past 12 Months

April 03, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

The county's unemployment rate hit 7.4 percent in February, more than double a year ago.

February's increase, from 6.9 percent in January, was the fourth straight monthly rise in Carroll unemployment. The latest state figures show 4,716 people in the county were unemployed in February.

In February 1990, the county jobless rate was 3.6 percent.

Butthe outlook for spring is better. Builders and construction-related companies are beginning to hire workers again, although in fewer numbers than last year, said the manager of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development in Westminster.

"I'm just keeping my fingers crossed it's going to pick up. It may take awhile, but at least we're moving in the right direction," said Theodora Stephen.

Unemployment in February was affected by the closing of a county plant and layoffs at two large companies outside the county, she said.

Westminster Knit Corp., a maker of women's and girls clothing, closed on Feb. 12. Eighty-four people lost their jobs at the compa

ny, a victim of the recession and foreign competition.

In February, Westinghouse laid off about 1,200 workers at its facilities at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and in Hunt Valley, Baltimore County. In January, USF&G Corp. laid off 900 workers in Baltimore.

Many county residents worked for the two companies and filed for unemployment benefits at the Westminster office, Stephen said. She did not know how many county residents were laid off by the two companies.

The county unemployment rate is the highest since February 1984, whenit hit 7.6 percent, DEED said.

Statewide, the jobless rate was 6.5 percent in February, up from 6.1 percent in January.

The seasonally adjusted national jobless rate for February was 6.5 percent.

In Westminster, Stephen said companies have hired carpenters and otherlaborers in the past two weeks.

"It's not a lot but enough to notice it," she said.

Martin K. P. Hill of Masonry Contractors Inc. in Hampstead, one of the county's largest contractors, said he hired five workers recently, mainly for seasonal work such as landscaping.

Hill laid off nine workers from Christmas to February. He normally employs about 38 people.

The upcoming building season "won't be business as usual, but it should be a reasonably healthy building season," he said.

From Jan. 1 to March 31, Masonry Contractors sold 50 new homes, Hill said.

In 1990, the company probably sold 65 homes during the period, he said.

With jobs harder to find in Maryland, some unemployed workers are looking overseas. Monday, the DEED computer listed 16 jobs in the Persian Gulf, Stephen said. The listings were for technical jobs, and salaries were listed as $30,000 a year, shesaid.

Listings for jobs in the county and the area are available at the DEED office at 125 Airport Drive in Westminster.

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