The county's unemployment rate hit its highest point in nearly sevenyears in January.

The rate for January, the most recent month forwhich numbers are available, was 7.1 percent, the state Department of Economic and Employment Development said Friday.

The rate is 1.2 percent higher than in December and 3.1 percent higher than in January 1990, figures show.

For Robert A. and Heather Weaver of Westminster, the increase comes as no surprise.

RobertWeaver is out of work and his wife has taken several weeklong voluntary layoffs from her clerical job because the workload has decreased.

Shannon-Baum Signs Inc. in Eldersburg laid off Robert Weaver, 51,in late January from his sales job of three years. Heather Weaver works at the Londontown Corp. in Eldersburg.

Robert Weaver has been visiting the DEED office in Westminster regularly to file for unemployment benefits and said he has applied for jobs at about 20 companies.

Last week, he and about 700 other people applied to work at the Giant Food store scheduled to open April 17 in Cranberry Square in Westminster. The company recruited workers three days last week in the DEED office at 125 Airport Drive.

Company spokesman Mark Roeder said Friday about 70 jobs, all part-time, still were available. The number is about half the jobs available at the store; the other half is being filled by people transferring from other Giant stores, he said.

The starting salary for jobs at Giant ranges from $5.15 to $6.90 per hour, he said.

Carroll's unemployment rate for January was higher than both the state and national rates, DEED numbers show. The Maryland jobless rate for January was 6.1 percent; the U.S. rate was 7.0 percent. The rates are not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.

The U.S. adjusted rate for February, released Friday, was 6.5 percent.

The increase in January was the third straight month the county'sjobless rate rose after remaining steady in August, September and October.

The last time Carroll County's unemployment rate was above 7.1 percent was in February 1984, when the rate was 7.6 percent, DEEDsaid.

In January, 490 more people in the county were out of work than in December. DEED numbers show 4,505 people here were unemployed that month.

Theodora Stephen, manager of the DEED office in Westminster, said many unemployed countians are construction workers who haven't been called back to work yet after winter layoffs.

Robert Weaver, who was laid off twice before from other companies, said he would like to get a management job at Giant. He and his wife have beenable to pay their bills so far by "tightening our belts.

"We stayhome more," he said, adding he tries not to get discouraged. "If youworry about it, you go nuts."

The maximum weekly unemployment check is $215, which may be collected for 26 weeks, Stephen said.

Thestate's unemployment rate did not change from December to January because of a decline in the labor force.

"This stability is encouraging for Maryland's economy as we move through the time of year that is usually most difficult for Maryland's work force," DEED Secretary J. Randall Evans said in a press release.

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