Carroll County's unemployment rate rose in December, in contrast to a statewide drop during the same period. The county rate rose from 5.7 percent in November to 6 percent in December. Maryland's rate dropped from 6.5 percent to 6.3 percent, the lowest monthly unemployment rate in 1992. "In Carroll County, there were some layoffs in manufacturing," said Marco Merrick, a public information officer with the state Department of Economic and Employment Development. Theodora Stephen, manager of the Westminster DEED office, said Telemechanique was the only Carroll company to lay off a large number of workers. About 250 people were let go when the company closed its Finksburg plant in December. "Quite a lot of them [the workers] have gone into the [Job Training Partnership Act] program for training and retraining," she said. Ms. Stephen said that former employees continue to receive unemployment insurance while participating in training programs. "Whenever a company closes, the employees are classified as dislocated workers and are eligible for training funds," she said. Mr. Merrick said a number of people re-entered the work force during December, causing unemployment to rise. The civilian labor force, or number of people employed added to those actively looking for work, rose in Carroll County from 3,667 in November to 3,898 in December. However, a statewide drop in the unemployment rate during a period of increases in the labor force indicates that Maryland's economy could be recovering, Mr. Merrick said. Maryland's civilian labor force grew from 2,600,483 people in November to 2,611,264 people in December. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits dropped from 169,208 in November to 163,910 in December. "When the labor force grows, usually unemployment goes up," Mr. Merrick said. "But an increase of people in the labor force coupled with an increase in hiring is a really good sign." Economic analysts also are encouraged by a nearly 30 percent increase in housing permits for December and an 8.2 percent increase in new automobile registrations, he said. In December, 2,528 housing permits were issued statewide, and 19,629 new cars were registered. Average hourly wages rose 9 cents, from $12.72 in November to $12.81 in December. "These indicators give hope that we are recovering from the recession," Mr. Merrick said. National figures showed the unemployment rate remaining steady at 7 percent in both November and December.