Atkinson knows his search is complicated by a criminal record. He's hoping Goodwill's job-readiness program will help. He's applied to several city agencies for work but has been told a job freeze is on.
"I've been looking for work since August," he said. "It's really hard trying to find a job."
White-collar job seekers higher up the employment ladder are seeing options narrow, too. Last year and especially in 2006, local companies had to move quickly if they didn't want prospective employees to get hired out from under them, said Mitch Halbrich, a Baltimore-based senior managing director with The Mergis Group, which helps companies fill permanent and temporary jobs in fields such as accounting, banking and marketing. Now companies are dragging their feet during the interview process.
"And many times, they change their mind at the end and say, 'You know what? We're going to spread the work out. We're not going to add a body right now,' " Halbrich said.
On the other hand, health care "just keeps on chugging," said Chad Houck, principal owner of The Search Group in Columbia, which recruits people for health care operational work as well as other professional services jobs.
Proximity to Washington is Maryland's "ace in the hole," said Andy Moser, the state's assistant secretary of work force development. Federal employment and government spending on contractors in Maryland help act as counterweights against private-sector troubles. Some states are much less fortunate: Jobless rates are above 8 percent in both Michigan and Rhode Island.
"Luckily, we're still somewhat insulated," said Wendel, the unemployment insurance official.