The unemployment rate in Carroll remained nearly level in May, afterdropping almost 2 percent over the preceding two months, state figures show.
The county's unemployment rate declined from 5.5 percent in April to 5.4 percent in May, the latest month for which figures are available, according to statistics released Friday by the state Department of Economic and Employment Development.
Carroll's unemployment rate in May 1990 was 2.6 percent. It had climbed as high as 7.4 percent last February.
Maryland's jobless rate increased from 5.6 percent in April to 5.8 percent in May. DEED attributed the rise to a seasonal increase in job seekers, including aninflux of students and others seeking summer work.
Meanwhile, theU.S. Department of Labor announced Friday that the national unemployment rate had climbed to 7 percent in June, the highest it has been in nearly five years and an increase of 1.7 percent since the recession began about one year ago.
The 0.1 percentage point drop in the jobless rate in Carroll doesn't signify any positive turns in the county's economy, such as an expanding job market, said Patrick Arnold, DEED's director of labor market analysis and information.
"The biggest factor driving the decline seems to be an exit from the labor force, not that employment went up," he said, adding that people must beactively looking for work to be counted as unemployed.
"It could include people who were already unemployed for a few months and decided to stop looking and those who lost their jobs in May and decided not to look."
The labor force decreased in Carroll from 63,894 in April to 63,734 in May, while employment dropped from 60,389 to 60,311.
The labor force had increased each month in 1991 until May.
If the labor force decreases while the number of jobs remains constant, the unemployment rate will drop.
Arnold said a 0.1 percentage point drop in a county's unemployment rate is too small to be able to identify significant economic trends.
"The smaller the move, the tougher it is to explain," he said. "About the best you could say is that the county did move counter to the state. The county moved sideways."
Carroll has not experienced major setbacks in employment, except for the garment industry, said William Jenne, business developmentmanager for the county's Office of Economic Development. However, layoffs at large Baltimore-area corporations, such as USF&G and Maryland National Bank, have affected some county residents, he said.
Jenne said his office hasn't detected significant increases in hirings in any county industry.
From April to May, the unemployment rate rose in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties,while declining in Carroll and Harford counties. The overall rate for the Baltimore metropolitan area increased from 6.2 percent to 6.6 percent. Howard had the lowest rate at 4.1 percent.
DEED reported that 12,100 more jobs were available statewide in May compared to April, with most in the trade, services and construction industries.