Md. unemployment rate edges up to 4.6 percent Figure is steady, but job growth in state trails Pa., Del., Va.

Economy

July 03, 1998|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

Maryland's unemployment rate stayed well below 5 percent for May, as low interest rates, construction employment and a growing national economy kept the state's job base steady.

Unemployment edged up to 4.6 percent, after adjustment for seasonal fluctuations, from 4.5 percent in April, according to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

That's near a low for the 1990s. But pockets of Maryland still list larger proportions of people who say they want to work but can't. Baltimore, for example, had an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent for May. Dorchester County had the state high, 11.5 percent.

At the same time, Maryland is adding jobs at a slower rate than its neighbors, continuing a pattern that has recurred several times this decade. In May, the state had only 13,000 more jobs than it did a year previously, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That's growth below 1 percent -- less than Pennsylvania's 1.2 percent, and far less than Virginia's 3 percent and Delaware's 3.7 percent for the same period.

In Virginia, "we have seen growth acceleration in large part due to gains in the technology industry," said Chris Chmura, chief economist with Crestar Bank in Richmond, Va. By contrast, she said, "a lack of a real industrial driver is what's keeping Maryland from growing faster than its neighbor to the south."

Maryland was home to 2.29 million jobs in May. Its neighbors aren't just adding more jobs than it is, their unemployment rates are lower, too. Pennsylvania's was 4.3 percent for May; Virginia's, 3 percent; Delaware's, 4.1 percent.

All across the country, low unemployment rates have been hurting growth, economists say, as companies find it more difficult to hire the people they need.

"It's getting harder and harder to find pools of available workers," said Mark Vitner, an economist with First Union Corp. in Charlotte, N.C. But that trend may be helping high-unemployment areas such as Baltimore, Vitner said, as employers broaden their search for workers. Baltimore's unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent in May from 9.2 percent a year ago.

Elsewhere in the region, Anne Arundel County's May unemployment rate was 3.4 percent; Baltimore County's, 4.6 percent; Carroll County's, 3 percent; Harford County's, 4.3 percent; and Howard County's, 2.5 percent.

Pub Date: 7/03/98

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