U.S. JOBLESS RATE AT 3 1/2-YEAR HIGH State at 5.3% level; Baltimore at 8.2%


Maryland's jobless rate jumped to 5.3 percent in November, the highest level since the last recession, as nearly 18,000 more residents found themselves out of work compared with the month before.

In Baltimore, 2,000 more people were reported unemployed than the month before, pushing the city's rate up to 8.2 percent from 7.5 percent in October and 5.8 percent a year earlier.

For the metropolitan area, the November rate stood at 5.6 percent, up from 4.9 percent the month before.

Although Maryland's jobless rate is lower than the national rate, the comparison is not nearly as favorable as in the past. It also shows the first contraction in Maryland's work force in years, hinting strongly that the state has entered a recession and promising further worries for budget planners.

The state's unemployment rate had held steady at 4.5 percent for three months but jumped by eight-tenths of a percentage point in November, according to data released today by the Department of Economic and Employment Development.

"It's a very steep increase, but it has been building for some time," said Pradeep Ganguly, associate director of DEED's office of research.

"I don't think it has hit the ceiling yet. As long as the national economy continues to slide, you'll see a lot of Maryland residents impacted by that," Ganguly said.

The 5.3 percent figure for November compares with 3.2 percent a year earlier. It is the highest November figure since the recession year of 1983 and the highest monthly figure since January 1985.

Ganguly noted that the federal unemployment report data, which NTC revealed a jobless rate of 6.1 percent in December, are based on a U.S. Labor Department survey of households. A separate survey of businesses showed a slightly better performance, indicating that some of the Maryland's unemployed could be commuters losing jobs in surrounding states that are harder hit, he said.

Ganguly said he thinks Maryland has avoided a recession so far.

Charles McMillion, senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies, said today: "I think we have gone into a recession."

He predicted that the gap between the national and Maryland unemployment rates would continue to narrow.

"The problem with this recession is it is being led by the financial and construction trades -- precisely where our strengths are," McMillion said.

In the Baltimore area, Howard County showed the greatest strength, with a jobless rate of 3.4 percent in November compared with 3.1 percent in October and 1.9 percent in November 1989.

The rates for other area counties were: Anne Arundel, 4 percent, up from 3.4 in October and 2.3 percent a year earlier; Carroll, 4.5 percent, up from 3.3 percent and 1.9 percent; and Harford, 5.5 percent, up from 4.2 percent and 3.4 percent.

Three counties had double-digit jobless rates in November: Garrett in Western Maryland with 11.2 percent, and St. Mary's in Southern Maryland and Worcester on the Eastern Shore, each with 12.5 percent.

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