ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland's unemployment rate soared to 6.8 percent in December from 6.1 percent in November, the state reported yesterday, as joblessness reached its highest level since 1983.
The jobless rate in Baltimore increased to 10.2 percent from 9.5 percent the month before. It was the first time in a decade that the city's rate had broken into double digits.
"The mayor has been saying for some time that while everybody else is experiencing a recession, the nation's cities are experiencing a depression," said Clinton Coleman, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's press secretary.
He said one thing that could boost the city's outlook is "significant financial help" from the legislature, including the state takeover of some city offices and a redistribution of income taxes.
Maryland unemployment, which is reported one month later than national figures, was higher in every subdivision in the state. It ranged from a low of 3.8 percent in Montgomery County, to 18.8 percent in Worcester County.
In December, there were 41,500 fewer people were employed than in November, while more than 25,000 people left the labor force. The result was a net gain of 16,355 unemployed people, the state reported.
The bleak jobless report was tempered a bit by news that retail sales in December, reflected by January tax revenues, were slightly higher than December 1990 sales.
The state comptroller's office said See MDJOBS, 16C, Col. 6MDJOBS, from 10Cyesterday that sales and use taxes received in January totaled $169.2 million, 3.3 percent more than in the same month a year earlier.
Except for construction and building supplies, every category of retail sales showed an increase for December.
"The January sales and use tax revenue, which includes Christmas sales, was the second month in a row that revenues exceeded the same month of the prior year," comptroller Louis L. Goldstein said in a statement.
However, compared with tax revenues from December 1989, the latest figures were down almost 1 percent.
The figures for December look better than those of December 1990, when sales were slowed by the anticipation of the Persian Gulf war and its effects on the national economy.
The unemployment figures provide little hope that the recession is loosening its grip on Maryland, and January layoffs at Westinghouse Electric Corp. and other businesses are expected lead to a report at least as bad next month.
But some state officials found signs for optimism.
"There is some reason to hope for improvement as housing producers recently have filed a high number of permits," said Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the Department of Economic and Employment Development.