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Carroll jobless rate falls to 4.2%, for 3rd decline in as many months


Carroll County's unemployment rate has dropped again, the third time in as many months.

State unemployment figures, released Friday, show the county rate decreased from 4.4 percent in September to 4.2 percent in October. Carroll's unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in August and 6.1 percent in July.

"Basically, across the state, in most jurisdictions unemployment went down," said Marco Merrick, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development. "In October, the unemployment rate tends to go down as people exit the labor force and summer jobs are still ending."

Statewide, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.1 percent in September to 6 percent in October. Carroll County had the second-lowest unemployment rate in the state for October. Howard County came in slightly lower at 4 percent.

Fewer people looking for work combined with an increase in hiring contributed to Carroll County's lower jobless rate, Mr. Merrick said.

The number of employed people in the county rose from 64,570 in September to 64,817 in October. The civilian labor force -- employed people plus those looking for work -- increased from 67,542 in September to 67,628 in October.

Carroll residents collecting unemployment insurance fell from 2,972 in September to 2,811 in October.

"This is just a sign that the economy is stable and is getting better," said Theodora Stephen, manager of the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development's Westminster office. "We're lucky" in Carroll County. "There's nothing happening of any magnitude in the way of large layoffs, and that's helping this."

Mrs. Stephen said she has been seeing more want ads in the newspapers, and more companies are submitting job orders to her office.

However, state and county officials are reluctant to call the recent decreases in unemployment a trend.

"We are not calling it a trend just yet," Mr. Merrick said. "We are very closely monitoring it. If we continue to see this slight downward movement, then we'll call it a trend."

Diane Massey, head of the county Job Training Partnership Administration, said the numbers should be watched closely because they do not reflect those people who have stopped looking for work or those who were laid off and never searched for a new job.

"We are still finding that we have a full caseload and that [the number of] people in need of services and retraining remains quite high," she said. "People are coming into the program both formally and informally through the career center at a pretty steady rate."

Ms. Massey and Mrs. Stephen said many management and middle- to upper-income people who have been laid off are taking jobs at a much lower salary than the ones they left.

"Many of the people who are collecting unemployment were laid off at the upper level," Mrs. Stephen said. "The majority of jobs we see in job orders are not matching their previous job in pay."

Ms. Massey said, "People want to get back to work, so they need to get in at a lower level and have a chance for upward mobility within the company. We encourage employers to bring on these people and make training opportunities available so they can move to a higher wage level."

The Job Training Partnership Administration office can help people who need job contacts or retraining, she said.

"What they need is a telephone to make calls and every lead possible to do a job search," she said. "Through the resources in our career center, we can give them job leads in those areas and also make available computer-assisted job search programs for jobs of a professional nature as well as those of a technical nature or an entry level."

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