The county's unemployment rate soared to 8.6 percent in January, with almost 1,500 more people jobless than a month earlier.
Carroll'srate is the highest since January 1984, when unemployment was 8.9 percent, said Theodora Stephen, manager of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development in Westminster.
The increase in January -- up from 6.3 percent in December -- canbe attributed to seasonal layoffs, she said, adding the rate normally increases every January.
Many workers in schools and in construction, landscaping and other outdoor jobs were out of work in January,she said.
Also, people hired for temporary Christmas holiday jobswere unemployed again in January, said Patrick Arnold, director of labor market analysis and information for DEED.
A year ago in January, Carroll's jobless rate was 7 percent, up from 5.9 percent in December 1990.
It's likely Carroll's jobless rate will fall by March, Stephen said. More companies have been contacting her office looking for workers recently, and fewer people have come in this month to file for unemployment benefits, she said.
"Usually our office is packed all day, but it hasn't been that way lately," she said.
In 1984, the unemployment rate in the county was above 8 percent in January and February, but dropped to 6.2 percent in March, Stephen said. By December, the rate was down to 3.7 percent, she said, adding the same pattern could emerge this year.
"We're all waiting to see," Stephen said.
In the county in January, 5,484 people were unemployed, compared to 4,015 in December, DEED reported. The civilian labor force,which includes people with jobs and those actively seeking work, increased by 793 people, from 63,244 in December to 64,037 in January, DEED said.
Carroll's rate was above the state's for January, the numbers show. Maryland's jobless rate for January was 7.3 percent -- the highest it's been in nine years, DEED reported. The increase was attributed to seasonal layoffs.
Positive economic signs are appearing, however, making state officials optimistic that a recovery is coming. Demand for goods and services is increasing slowly, and employeesin some industries are working overtime hours -- a sign that the companies may begin hiring more workers, DEED reported.
"More recent indicators are beginning to show signs of recovery, particularly in residential construction and retail sales," DEED Secretary Mark Wasserman said.
The U.S. unemployment rate for February was 7.3 percent,up from 7.1 percent in January and the highest since July 1985, the U.S. Labor Department reported. (U.S. numbers are one month ahead of state numbers.)
U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Statistics; Maryland Dept. of Economic and Employment, Office of Labor Market Analysis and Information