Md. jobless rate rises to 4.8% in June

Economy is showing more weakness than state officials expected

August 03, 2002|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Maryland's unemployment rate edged higher in June as manufacturing and other sectors shrank payrolls, according to data released yesterday.

Maryland's jobless rate rose to 4.8 percent from 4.3 percent a year ago, according to seasonally unadjusted figures released by the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The figures are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

The unemployment rate for the nation was 5.9 percent in July, matching the June rate, the federal government reported yesterday.

"Overall, the job market is showing a lot more weakness than we had expected," said Pradeep Ganguly, chief economist in Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development.

"The weakness in the job market is actually a reflection of caution on the part of employers and mostly manufacturers who are reluctant to hire until they see strong signs of economic growth."

Construction, utilities, retail and manufacturing all shed workers in the state while government jobs grew, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The federal unemployment survey, however, shows that Maryland's unemployment rate, when seasonally adjusted to reflect part-time workers, was 4.6 percent in June, down from 4.8 percent in May, but up from 4 percent a year earlier.

Many economists believe that the country emerged from recession early this year and that Maryland followed soon after.

The country grew rapidly in the first quarter with gross domestic product - the value of goods and services produced by American business - expanding at a 5 percent annual rate, but slowed sharply in the second quarter to a rate of 1.1 percent.

The slowdown is being felt throughout the state, particularly in Baltimore, which had an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent, the highest in the state and up from 8.5 percent a year earlier.

The rates of two Eastern Shore counties followed. Dorchester had an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, and Somerset's rate was 7 percent.

The counties with the lowest unemployment included Montgomery County, 3 percent; Talbot County, 3.1 percent; and Carroll County 3.2 percent.

Howard and Anne Arundel, two large and fast-growing counties, had unemployment rates of 3.3 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively. Both were up compared with the prior year.

"I think unemployment is going to be going up," said Charles W. McMillion, chief economist at MBG Information Services in Washington.

He expects state and local governments to freeze hiring and possibly cut workers. "I think it is going to be a pretty rugged fall and up through the end of the year," McMillion said.

Ganguly sees some bright spots in Maryland's economy, particularly with the state's growing labor force, which expanded by nearly 46,000 people in June over May.

"The labor force is still growing, manufacturing orders are still growing, tourism is picking up, the overall housing market remains strong although we are seeing some slowdown," Ganguly said.

He expects "real strong job growth" by the end of the year.

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