Unemployment rate drops to 3-year low

January 09, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Carroll County's unemployment rate dropped from 4.1

percent in October to 3.8 percent in November, the lowest since the county had a 3.7 percent jobless rate in October 1990, state officials said Friday.

State Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED) officials said county unemployment has decreased for four months. It dropped from 6.1 percent in July to 5.3 percent in August to 4.4 percent in September.

But county officials said the steady drop does not take into account residents who are overqualified for the jobs at which they are currently working.

"Just looking at those numbers, they appear to be optimistic," said William E. Jenne, the county's economic development administrator. "I think it might be true that there are more people working out there, but there are a whole lot of people out there working in positions that are not indicative of their skills and interests."

Statewide, the unemployment figure decreased from 6.0 percent October to 5.5 percent in November. It was the first time in two years the state rate has dropped below 6.0 percent.

"Carroll County pretty much experienced the same trends as the rest of the state," said DEED spokeswoman Marilyn Corbett. "People entered the labor market and found jobs, which caused employment to go up and unemployment to go down."

Many of the new jobs were in retail, as stores geared up for the Christmas rush, she said. During November, Carroll County's civilian labor force -- the number of people working plus those actively seeking work -- increased as employment did.

Yet people in Christmas jobs often receive low pay and few benefits, Mr. Jenne said.

"Reality gets somewhat distorted by numbers such as this," he said, noting that many economists would say that 3.8 percent unemployment is nearly full employment.

"While it may be true that most of our civilian work force is $H employed, I'm still convinced that there is a sizable percentage that had to take a lesser position for them to at least realize some earnings," he said.

Mr. Jenne said that point was brought home to him as he screened applications for the new business development representative job in his office.

"We received applications from many overqualified individuals who had been making more than double what this position was advertised for," he said. "I'm delighted that people are employed, but I remain convinced that the indicators that are used to gauge the performance of our economy don't reflect reality."

Diane Massey, head of the county Job Training Partnership Administration, said demand for her department's services remains steady.

"Those numbers are only reflective of those people who have applied for unemployment insurance," she said, but people who work on commission, on farms, for railroads, religious organizations or domestic servants are not counted.

But Ms. Massey said she is encouraged by more employers listing openings with her office and the number of industries moving to Carroll County.

State figures said Carroll County employment rose from 64,790 jobs in October to 65,228 jobs in November.

The civilian work force increased from 67,567 people in October to 67,773 people in November.

In previous months, employment has not kept up with increases in the civilian work force, which has pushed up the unemployment rate.

"Normally, we see a rise in November, which made this dramatic drop even better news," Ms. Corbett said. "Many people enter the job market looking for jobs and don't find them. This year they found them."

In November 1992, Maryland's unemployment rate was 6.3 percent. The county rate was 5.3 percent.

vTC Temporary layoffs and less work in seasonal industries -- such as construction -- slow down and often push up unemployment in the winter months, Ms. Corbett said.

"We usually find increases in January and February," she said.

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