Md. unemployment fell in December to 4.1%

But rate rose to 4.5% if seasonal hiring is not included

February 02, 2002|By Paul Adams | Paul Adams,SUN STAFF

Maryland's unemployment rate decreased slightly in December as many workers left the labor market and others found temporary jobs with businesses looking to supplement their staff during the holiday season.

The state's unemployment rate was 4.1 percent for the month, down from October's 4.3 percent.

When seasonal anomalies - such as a surge in retail hiring around the holidays - are factored out, the state's unemployment rate actually increased to 4.5 percent, state officials reported yesterday.

The national rate was 5.8 percent in December.

Economists say the seasonally adjusted number is often a better indicator of employment trends because it acknowledges that many seasonal job gains and losses are temporary, particularly in the retail and construction industries.

That suggests Maryland can expect to see unemployment continue to inch upward for a few more months despite indications that the nation's economy is pulling out of recession.

"Despite the fact of today's releases, the unemployment rate is generally on an upward trend and it will stay on that trend for the next few months," said Anirban Basu, director of applied economics for Towson University's RESI research institute.

State labor officials note that Maryland continues to perform better than the rest of the nation in terms of unemployment.

"We still remain below the national average, and that's a pretty consistent picture we've gotten in that vein," said Macro K. Merrick, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Statewide, Charles County's 2.3 percent unemployment rate was the lowest, followed by Calvert County's 2.4 percent. Worcester County's 15.2 percent rate was the highest.

Baltimore County was at 4.4 percent, while Baltimore City was at 7.6 percent. Howard County came in at 2.8 percent; Harford, 3.5 percent; and Anne Arundel, 3.5 percent.

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