Md. jobless rate inched higher in Aug. but was below U.S. average

Unemployment in city declines but is still high

October 05, 2002|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Maryland's unemployment remained well below the national average, but inched higher in August compared with a year earlier, according to data released yesterday.

The state's jobless rate was 4.2 percent in August, compared with 4.1 percent in August 2001, according to figures released by the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The 4.2 percent rate in August matched July's results. The figures are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

"We are seeing some signs of life," said Richard P. Clinch, director of economic research at the University of Baltimore. "Maryland continues to track steady."

Maryland's unemployment rate was still well below the nation's. Yesterday, the Commerce Department reported that the nation's unemployment rate dipped unexpectedly to 5.6 percent in September, down from 5.7 percent in August.

"I think the national number going down was clearly surprising," Clinch said.

"Overall, Maryland has so far dodged the bullet. Nationally you might call this a recession that we are in ... but still with unemployment below 5 percent it is a pretty painless one."

Maryland's available labor force numbered 2.93 million in August, compared with 2.96 million in July, usually the peak, according to the state.

Of those, 122,648 people were unemployed, compared with 124,993 in July.

People found jobs in construction, trucking, apparel stores, business services and health services, the state said.

Unemployment in Baltimore City was 7.8 percent in August, but that was down from 8.2 percent a year earlier. It was still the second-highest in the state.

Dorchester County had the highest unemployment rate at 7.9 percent, down from 9.1 percent a year earlier. It was followed by Somerset County's 6.5 percent, up from 6.2 percent in August 2001.

The counties with the lowest unemployment rates included Montgomery County, 2.6 percent; Queen Anne's, 2.8; and Calvert County, 2.9 percent.

Howard County's unemployment rate was 3 percent, up from 2.9 percent a year earlier; Baltimore County, 4.5 percent, up from 4.4 percent; and Anne Arundel, 3.6 percent, compared with 3.5 percent.

Clinch is optimistic that Maryland can do well unless a large event, such as a war with Iraq, jolts the country.

"If something funny goes on in Iraq, consumer confidence would go down, the stock market would go down," he said. "Overall, Maryland is continuing to do strong. Things appear to be bottoming out."

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