Md. joblessness hits 7.3% despite signs of recovery

March 14, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,U.S. Department of LaborStaff Writer

Despite signs that Maryland is emerging from the recession, the pink slips continue to pile up.

Figures released yesterday show Maryland's jobless rate in January reached the highest level in nine years, growing to 7.3 percent from 6.7 percent in December.

Area economists say they don't expect the situation to get mucbetter for at least several months.

Even more significant than the percentage of the work force seeking employment was the number of jobs lost from December to January, they say. The number of employed people declined 25,974, to 2.34 million, in January. People without jobs increased 13,873, to 184,727.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to 45,766 in January from 38,025 in December.

The unemployment rate is typically highest in January, and state economists attributed the increase in joblessness to seasonal layoffs. Even so, the rate in January was 1.2 percentage points higher than the 6.1 percent rate in January 1991. Maryland's unemployment figures are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

Michael Conte, director of the Center for Business and Economic Studies at the University of Baltimore, said he did not expect the jobless picture to improve significantly until late summer.

A recent University of Baltimore study showed that leading economic indicators in the state jumped significantly in December. Those figures, which include a variety of economic measurements designed to forecast trends, are a sign that Maryland's economy might be coming out of the recession, he said.

The higher unemployment rate does not contradict that signal, he said, because improvements in employment frequently lag three to six months behind a recovery.

"It's not as if you have to wait for the unemployment rate to fall before we're in a recovery," Mr. Conte said.

Mark L. Wasserman, secretary for the Department of Economic and Employment Development, sought to put a positive spin on the state's economic figures, saying other statistics show that the economy has started to rebound from the recession.

"Although January's unemployment rate once again is up, more recent indicators are beginning to show signs of recovery, particularly in residential construction and retail sales," he said.

Analysts noted demand for goods and services has started to rise and in some industries, employees' have begun to work overtime.

The unemployment picture is complicated by a restructuring in the state's economy.

"One problem is Maryland does have a disproportionate share of buiness related to defense spending. That's going to be a problem," said Mark Meador, an associate professor of economics at Loyola College.

Charles McMillion, president of MBG, a Washington-based economic consulting firm, thinks that because of cuts in the defense industry and stagnation in the construction industry, Maryland's employment rate will not improve as quickly as other aspects of the economy.

When February statistics are released, he said, "we should see some job growth, but it will not be nearly as rapid as we usually see because of these other factors."

Maryland, which long has had a low unemployment rate and resistance to economic downturns, soon might not be able to claim a lower jobless rate than the rest of the country, Mr. McMillion said. In January, the unadjusted national unemployment rate was 8 percent.

In general, he said, "I think the gap is closing."

Maryland's unemployment rate briefly topped the U.S. rate in 1979, but through the 1980s, the state's jobless rate ranged from 1 percentage point to 3 percentage points lower than the national rate.

The latest figures show unemployment ranging from 3.6 percent in Montgomery County to 20.7 percent in Worcester County.

In the Baltimore area, the jobless rate rose to 8.0 percent in January, up from December's 7.3 percent. Unemployment rose across the Baltimore area but was highest in the city, at 10.5 percent

Western Maryland continued to post the highest regional

unemployment figures, with the jobless rate increasing to 11.9 percent in January, from 10.7 percent in December.

In the Washington suburbs, the jobless rate held steady at 5 percent.

On the Eastern Shore and in Southern Maryland, the unemployment rate rose to 11.2 percent from 9.4 percent the previous month.

Maryland unemployment

... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Jan. .. Dec.

U.S. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 8.0 .. 6.8

Maryland .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 7.3 .. 6.7

Baltimore area .. .. .. .. .. 8.0 .. 7.3

Baltimore City .. .. .. .. .. 10.5 ..10.1

Anne Arundel .. .. .. .. .. ..6.3 .. 5.7

Baltimore .. .. .. .. .. .. ..7.1 .. 6.4

Carroll .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 8.6 .. 6.3

Harford .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 9.9 .. 7.5

Howard .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..4.9 .. 4.6

Queen Anne's .. .. .. .. .. ..9.2 .. 7.4

D.C. area .. .. .. .. .. .. ..5.0 .. 5.0

Calvert .. .. .. .. .. .. ....8.5 .. 8.6

Charles .. .. .. .. .. ... .. 6.3 .. 6.0

Frederick .. .. .. .. .. .. ..8.5 .. 6.7

Montgomery .. .. .. .. .. .. 3.6 .. 3.7

Prince George's .. .. .. .. ..5.4 .. 5.7

Western Maryland .. .. .. .. 11.9 .. 10.7

Allegany .. .. .. .. .. .. ..13.1 .. 11.9

Garrett .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 13.7 .. 15.5

Washington .. .. .. .. .. .. 10.9 .. 9.0

Rest of state .. .. .. .. .. 11.2 .. 9.4

Caroline .. .. .. .. .. .. ..10.3 .. 7.9

Cecil .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..12.6 .. 9.5

Dorchester .. .. .. .. .. .. 12.7 .. 10.1

Kent .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 10.8 .. 8.2

St. Mary's .. ... .. .. .. .. 6.6 .. 5.7

Somerset .. .... .. .. .. .. 14.5 .. 12.6

Talbot .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 7.6 .. .. 7.5

Wicomico .. .. .. .. .. .. 10.6 .. .. 9.8

Worcester .... .. .. .. .. 20.7 .. ..17.9

Data is not seasonally adjusted.

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