Warmer spring weather helped drive down Maryland unemployment in March for the first time in 11 months, as more than 32,500 people found jobs, state officials reported yesterday.
The state jobless rate fell to 6 percent in March from 6.5 percent the month before, partly the result of normal seasonal factors, according to the state Department of Economic and Employment Development, which reports on unemployment a month behind the federal government.
The state jobless rate hadn't declined since a 0.1 percent drop in April 1990.
Unemployment fell in every jurisdiction in the state in March but still remained well above jobless levels of a year ago. In March 1990, Maryland's unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, DEED stated.
In the Baltimore metropolitan area, joblessness fell 0.2 percent, to 6.8 percent. Unemployment in Baltimore City was the highest in the area, at 9.3 percent of the work force, down from 9.4 percent in February.
The state unemployment figures, unlike the national numbers, are not adjusted for seasonal factors. In March, the unadjusted U.S. jobless rate was 7.1 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The seasonally adjusted rate that month was 6.8 percent).
State officials were cautious about declaring an end to the state's recession but hailed the figures as one of the first positive economic signs in many months.
"We are pleased to report this drop in Maryland's unemployment rate as we begin to see signs of an improving economy," said DEED Secretary J. Randall Evans.
"However, there are still 150,000 unemployed Maryland workers who need our best efforts to ensure their earliest possible return to work," he said.
The state figures were particularly encouraging because they showed net growth in the work force. During some recent months, total unemployment was tempered by the loss of workers from the labor market -- people who officially stopped looking for jobs out of frustration or for some other reason.
But in March, the labor force increased by 21,643 people, DEED reported, and about 10,900 people who were looking for work found it.
Another positive sign was that the normal February-to-March drop in unemployment was as high as or higher than for some other years in the last decade. In 1982, for instance, the last year of the last major recession, the March jobless rate fell only 0.2 percent, according to Pat Arnold, director of DEED's Office of Labor Market Analysis and Information.
The 0.5 percent drop in March of this year more closely resembles healthy years such as 1990 and 1989 (0.4 percent March declines each year).