Maryland's unemployment rate fell by half a percentage point, to 6.2 percent, in March, as more than 15,000 new jobs were created in the state, the Department of Economic and Employment Development announced yesterday.
The news was hailed as "encouraging" by state officials and economists, who said Maryland is finally starting to recoup the jobs lost in the 1991-1992 recession.
Local businesspeople, however, were skeptical about an upturn. They said business and hiring had picked up since the beginning of the year, but they had seen too many other false starts to break out the champagne.
There were job gains in every county as well as Baltimore City in March, as construction and service hiring boomed, DEED reported.
It was the second month of improved employment in Maryland. In February, the number of jobs rose by more than 23,000.
The city's jobless rate dipped to its lowest level since November 1991 as it fell to 9.5 percent in March. The number of jobs in the city rose by 2,300.
Booming areas such as Montgomery County -- which saw its unemployment rate drop by a third of a percentage point, to 3.3 percent, continued to see job growth. But economically troubled communities also saw improvements. Worcester County, for example, saw its unemployment rate drop by 2.7 percentage points, to 15.2 percent.
The job growth "brings us about even" to last March's level, said Mahlon Straszheim, the University of Maryland economist who advises Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that Maryland had lost 21,200 jobs in 1992, the state's first annual job loss in a decade.
While Mr. Straszheim said further economic improvements will be needed to bring the state back to its pre-recession health, he said he expected jobs to continue growing.