Md. jobless rate rises to 4.4% in February

But level is well below 5.4% set in Feb. 1998

city rate is 7.8%

April 03, 1999|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Maryland's unemployment rate edged up to 4.4 percent in February from 4 percent in January, but state officials noted yesterday that the rate remains significantly lower than the 5.4 percent level in February 1998.

Seasonal employment declines and an increase in the number of job seekers primarily caused the rate to increase in February, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which released the figures yesterday.

"We are optimistic that record high employment levels will continue and job opportunities in several industries will continue to increase as spring weather approaches," said state Labor Secretary John P. O'Connor in a statement.

The state figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The national unemployment rate -- a measure of the number of people who say they want a job but can't find one -- was 4.4 percent in February.

"The state's economy is strong and is doing well. Anyone who wants to find a job can, with little effort," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Regional Financial Associates in West Chester, Pa.

The slight percentage increase from January to February is irrelevant, Zandi said.

"There are lots of jobs being created and some businesses are having a hard time finding employees," he said.

In February, the number of employed Marylanders fell by 2,669 to just below 2.7 million. The number of unemployed increased to 121,310, partly because of lingering post-holiday layoffs in the retail sector.

Educational services and the manufacturing experienced a boost in employment, along with upturns in construction and at restaurants, the state labor department said.

In Baltimore, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, the highest in the region. Yet the rate was significantly lower than its 9.3 percent in February 1998.

In Howard County, the unemployment rate was 2.1 percent, the state's lowest, followed by 2.2 percent in Montgomery County, 3.1 percent in Charles County, 3.3 percent in Calvert County, 3.4 percent in Frederick County and 3.5 percent in both Anne Arundel and St. Mary's counties.

The highest unemployment rate was in the Eastern Shore's Worcester County, at 17.9 percent. Garrett County in Western Maryland, at 13.1 percent. was the second highest.

Pub Date: 4/03/99

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