Jobless rate soared to 6.6% in Jan.

March 10, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County's unemployment rate rose sharply in January, to 6.6 percent from December's 4.2 percent, but economic officials say they are not worried.

The bulk of the increase resulted from major changes in the way the state compiles unemployment data, according to a spokesman for the Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED), which released county-by-county unemployment figures yesterday.

"It's unfair to compare January to December this year because of changes we made in calculating the rate," DEED spokesman Marco K. Merrick said. "This should not be taken as a doom and gloom picture."

Contributing to Carroll's 6.6 percent rate, Mr. Merrick said, was the usual post-December rise in unemployment coupled with the changes in the way data were collected. The changes include using 1990 instead of 1980 Census figures and making the figures seasonally adjusted.

Seasonally adjusted data, Mr. Merrick said, make economic trends clearer by removing expected changes that occur at the same time each year, such as the post-December drop in employment.

Overall, he said, DEED is confident that Maryland's employment picture is a bright one.

"We knew this drastic change in some counties was coming," Mr. Merrick said. "But we're convinced that Maryland will continue to experience an economic recovery."

According to the figures released yesterday, Carroll's civilian work force totaled 68,256 in January, an increase of 2 percent over December's 66,982. The number of people actively employed totaled 63,742 in January, down 1 percent from December's 64,173.

Despite the statistical change and the usual drop in seasonal employment, Carroll's jobless rate for January was almost a full point lower than January 1993's 7.4 percent.

Paul D. Denton, president of Maryland Midland Railroad and chairman of the Carroll Economic Development Commission, said yesterday that he wasn't aware of the impact that changes in data collection had on the unemployment rate but that he remained confident about this year's economy.

"Insofar as Carroll County is concerned, we continue to be relatively in a better position than other jurisdictions," he said.

According to the data released yesterday, only Howard County -- at 3.8 percent -- had a lower unemployment rate than Carroll in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The highest rate was 10,8 percent in Baltimore.

Statewide, the January unemployment rate was 6.4 percent, up from December's 5.8 percent but down from January 1993's 6.5 percent. According to the Department of Economic and Employment Development, 2.48 million of the state's 2.66 million civilian workers were employed in January.

Montgomery County, at 3.3 percent, had the lowest unemployment rate; Worcester County, on the Eastern Shore, had the highest rate, 17.4 percent.

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