For the second straight month, Carroll's unemployment rate decreased, falling 1.1 percentage points in April, state figures show.

The county's jobless rate for April -- the latest month for which figuresare available -- was 5.5 percent, down from 6.6 percent in March, according to statistics released Friday by the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.

"In general, the county's doing much better," said Theodora Stephen, manager of Westminster's DEED office. "We're just excited the rate continues to go down."

The brighter county employment picture isattributed to a mix of seasonal industries picking up and early signs of improvement in the national economy, she said.

The rebound inCarroll employment has been reflected in a lower volume of people coming into the local DEED office to file for unemployment benefits, she said.

State figures show the county's labor force was 63,953 in April, up from 63,786 the previous month. The number of people employed was 60,449 in April, compared with 59,594 in March.

Across Maryland, the number of unemployed people dropped from 149,669 in March to 141,684 in April, state figures show.

In Carroll, a wide range of industries have begun looking for workers, either by rehiring laid-off workers or hiring new employees, Stephen said.

"It's been the whole gamut: professional, clerical, managerial, service (positions)," she said.

However, one industry continuing to struggle is construction.

"It just hasn't gone back to the level it was at last October, when there was more new-home and commercial construction," Stephen said.

Jeffrey B. Powers, president of Powers Construction Co. in Westminster, said the industry is starting to experience a rebound,but employers are reluctant to begin hiring additional workers because of uncertainty about what's in store in the coming months.

"Theworkload has turned around, but I think many subcontractors are afraid to bring on new people for fear of having to fire them at a later date," he said.

Carroll and Queen Anne's were the only counties inthe Baltimore metropolitan area that experienced jobless rate decreases of more than 1 percentage point. The Queen Anne's unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent in April from 6 percent in March.

From last August through October, the Carroll rate was unchanged at 3.3 percent. From November through February the rate increased steadily from4.5 percent to 7.4 percent.

In March, Carroll's jobless rate fellfor the first time in seven months, dropping 0.8 percentage points.

Statewide, unemployment decreased from 6 percent to 5.6 percent. The drop was the largest for an April since 1986.

Nationwide, the employment picture isn't quite as rosy.

May figures -- the latest national figures available -- released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department showed the nation's jobless rate jumped to 6.9 percent, up from 6.6 percent in April.

In Maryland, unemployment rates in April ranged from a low of 3 percent in Montgomery County to a high of 12.4 percent in Somerset County.

The Carroll jobless rate in April 1990 was 2.4 percent.

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