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FEBRUARY JOBLESS RATE AT 6.5% Baltimore's picture improves sharply; state's unchanged.


Unemployment in the Baltimore area declined in January, from 6.9 percent to 6.4 percent, while the jobless rate in Maryland remained unchanged from December to January, officials reported today.

The decline in the metropolitan area was attributed to a major recall of workers in the auto manufacturing industry. State officials attributed Maryland's stable rate to a decrease in the state's labor force rather than a decline in the number of people without jobs.

In Baltimore City, the jobless rate dropped by almost a full percentage point from 10 percent to 9.1 percent. However, layoffs in Carroll and Queen Anne's counties, along with an increased number of people seeking jobs, caused the two counties' unemployment rates to rise to 7.1 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.

J. Randall Evans, secretary of the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development, called the figures "encouraging" in light of the increase in unemployment that usually follows seasonal employment.

Charles McMillion, senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies, however, cautioned that the numbers should not be taken as a sign that the state is beginning to pull out of a recession.

He noted that Westinghouse recently laid off 1,200 from the company's Electronic Systems Group, numbers that will not show in the state's unemployment releases until March.

"I suspect that when the February numbers come in, unemployment will continue to rise," McMillion said. "But when the March numbers arrive, there will be a considerable uptake."

McMillion added that the Westinghouse layoffs will have a "ripple effect" on companies that are suppliers or distributors for Westinghouse,

Overall, the number of jobs available in the state declined by 14,080 in January to 2,324,150 from 2,338,230 in December. At the same time, 12,777 people left the work force, according to data from DEED. That number includes people who have either left the state or have been removed from the unemployment rolls. The state said 152,081 Maryland residents were without jobs in January.

In the Maryland suburbs of Washington, unemployment increased from 4.3 percent to 4.5 percent, with an additional 2,300 workers losing jobs in January.

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