State's jobless rate rises to 3.9%

November numbers also show fewer people seeking employment

January 11, 2003|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Maryland's unemployment rate rose modestly in November, but the number of people searching for jobs was substantially lower than a year earlier.

The state's jobless rate was 3.9 percent, compared with 3.8 percent in October, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation reported yesterday. In November 2001, the number of unemployed in the state was 126,414, or 4.4 percent of the labor force. The figures are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

The increase may suggest that Marylanders will encounter more difficulty finding work in the coming months as concern about another Persian Gulf war grows, economists said.

"In the short-term, things don't look good," said Anirban Basu, director of applied economics at RESI Research & Consulting, Towson University's economics research arm. "But in the longer term - four to six months out - could things be much, much better? They may be."

While employment declined throughout much of the state, local labor market trends were mixed. Worcester County led the state's unemployment rate with 10.8 percent, followed by Baltimore City at 7.5 percent and Dorchester County at 7.2 percent.

The lowest rates were in Calvert County, 2.3 percent; Montgomery and Frederick counties, each with 2.4 percent; and Howard County, 2.5 percent.

During November, hiring activity was centered primarily in retail. Most of the job gains were reported by general merchandise stores, restaurants, apparel stores and home-furnishings stores.

"By historic standards, these are very low rates," Basu said. "So we should be thankful. ... We also have to remember this report doesn't say what the economy will look like after the resolution of the gulf crisis.

"There is pent-up demand in the economy in consumers. It will be released once the gulf crisis passes us."

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