Maryland jobless rate rose to 4.5% in January


Maryland's unemployment rate rose in January, but the job market remained healthier than that of the rest of the nation.

The state's jobless rate was 4.5 percent, up from 4 percent in December, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation reported yesterday. In January last year, the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent. The figures are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

Maryland's job market remained stronger than that of the nation, which posted a 6.5 percent unemployment rate in January. That rate was not adjusted for seasonal variations.

Economists said it's no surprise that Maryland's unemployment rate has risen. Companies have been laying off workers and holding back on hiring more as the health of the economy remains uncertain.

"We have employers who are reluctant to hire in this environment," said Anirban Basu, chairman and chief executive officer of Optimal Solutions Group, a Baltimore consulting firm. "The uncertainty facing business is coming from a variety of sources. When you have layoffs and little hiring, you're going to get a rising unemployment rate."

State officials said the unemployment rate typically rises in January because of seasonal changes.

Maryland saw a reduction in jobs in the retail and hospitality industries as employers cut back after the holiday season.

Construction activity decreased in the state because of wintry weather , and the staffs at schools and colleges were temporarily reduced for the semester break.

Basu said that state unemployment rate dropped slightly, to 4 percent in January from 4.2 percent in December, when adjusting for seasonal factors, but he predicted that the job market will worsen.

The Baltimore metropolitan area reported an unemployment rate of 5 percent. Howard County had the region's lowest unemployment rate, 2.7 percent, followed by Anne Arundel County, 3.5 percent; Carroll County, 3.9 percent; Baltimore County, 4.7 percent; Harford County, 5 percent; and Baltimore, 8.3 percent.

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