Md. jobless rate falls to 4% as hiring expands

February rate reflects better employment by government, tech sectors

April 09, 2004|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

Maryland's unemployment rate fell slightly, to 4 percent in February from a revised 4.2 percent rate in January, as the state's economy continued to grow steadily.

The number of unemployed people in the state fell by 8,277 to 116,554 in February, according to seasonally adjusted figures released yesterday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Economists attributed the addition of 10,600 jobs to federal government hiring and the growth in technology and life sciences sectors.

"The industries that drive our economy have remained strong," said Richard P. Clinch, director of economic research at the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore.

"It's the same story we've been seeing for a while now, of slowly accelerating growth in the Maryland economy," said Scott Hoyt, a senior economist and Maryland analyst for Economy.com in West Chester, Pa.

As it has for the past decade, Maryland's unemployment rate remained below the national average, which was 5.6 percent in February, economists said.

"Maryland has always really been outperforming the nation throughout this economic downturn," Clinch said. "We've lost less jobs when it was going down, we've gained more jobs when it was going up."

In Maryland, Worcester County had the highest proportion of joblessness. Its unemployment rate fell to 13.8 percent in February from 15.9 percent in January. The lowest unemployment in the state was in Howard and Montgomery counties, where the rates for both were 2.5 percent. County unemployment rates were not seasonally adjusted.

Kforce Professional Staffing, a national professional staffing firm in Baltimore that specializes in information technology, finance and accounting, has seen a "significant increase" in job opportunities for both temporary and full-time workers, said Kyle Morton, the company's market vice president.

"I would absolutely say that the market has picked up," Morton said.

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