State unemployment rate falls for second consecutive month

Construction, agriculture, hotel industries hiring

July 06, 2002|By Robert Little | Robert Little,SUN STAFF

Maryland's unemployment rate crept downward in May for the second straight month, as more residents found jobs in construction, agriculture and the hotel and restaurant industries, according to data released yesterday.

But 25,000 more Marylanders were looking for work in May than a year earlier - evidence, economists said, that the state is still shaking off the recession-like symptoms that have been felt throughout the state and national economies.

"Maryland is continuing to struggle with jobs, just like the nation as a whole," said Charles W. McMillion, chief economist for MBG Information Services in Washington. "There's a pretty stagnant labor market out there."

The percentage of Marylanders in the labor force who do not have jobs declined from 5 percent in April to 4.6 percent in May, according to data released yesterday by the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The unemployment rate in May 2001 was 3.8 percent.

The national unemployment rate in May was 5.8 percent.

State officials said much of the improvement in Maryland was seasonal and came from new hiring by construction companies, building material and garden supply stores, restaurants, trucking companies and amusement businesses. In May, 132,390 Marylanders were unemployed, 13,000 fewer than in April - even as the size of the state work force stayed roughly the same.

"The good news is that Maryland is moving in the right direction," said McMillion. "And it is quite a bit better off than Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania, which have lost jobs at a higher rate."

Unemployment fell in all 23 of Maryland's counties and Baltimore City from April to May, as the number of state residents with jobs rose to almost 2.77 million.

Dorchester County had Maryland's highest unemployment rate, 9.5 percent, followed by Baltimore City, with 8.7 percent. The counties with the lowest rates were Calvert, Carroll, Charles, Montgomery and Talbot, each of which reported 2.9 percent unemployment.

Baltimore County, with a 5 percent jobless rate, joined Baltimore City as the only two jurisdictions in the metropolitan area with unemployment rates that exceeded the state average. Harford County had 4.3 percent unemployment, Anne Arundel County had 3.8 percent and Howard County had 3.2 percent.

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