ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s already low unemployment rate dropped to 3.3 percent in July after hitting a yearly high of 3.6 percent in the previous month, Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced Thursday.
Maryland’s rate now stands almost one full point below the national average of 4.2 percent, according to statistics from the state Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. The state’s jobless rate has hovered between 3 and 3.5 percent all year. It fell below the national average in mid-1998 and stayed below it since.
The 3.3 percent unemployment rate is a record low for the month of July, marking 12 straight months of record low unemployment rates in Maryland.
“This is a remarkable way to celebrate Labor Day,” Glendening said.
The unemployment rate in nearly every individual county fell, with Somerset, Worcester, and Allegany counties experiencing the highest drops, around 1 percent.
But not every Maryland county saw growth. Unemployment in Queen Anne’s County rose to 2.9 percent from 2.5 percent in June, and unemployment in Harford County rose to 3.9 percent from 3.3 percent in June.
“The summer months are very cyclical,” said Tom Sadowski, director of economic development for Harford County.
Those cycles plus recent privatization at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the county’s largest employer, and the county’s transition from a largely agricultural economy to one that is more high-tech might explain the rise in unemployment, he said.
But, with the privatization, “You may see initial unemployment, but then the workers may get rehired by the private contractors,” he said.
The state partly attributed the three-tenths of a percent statewide drop to a rise in the number of seasonal employment positions in several counties in hotel, restaurant, and amusement positions.
“This is a normal pattern from June to July,” said Marco Merrick, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation.
“When you have a huge labor force, particularly summer job seekers, a number of industries can flourish. We’re seeing employment grow as the labor force grows,” he said.
Glendening also touted job growth in several business areas as another of the reasons for the three-tenths of a percent drop statewide, including services, construction and retail. Maryland ranks 11th nationally in job growth, he said.
But he said in order for unemployment to fall farther, improvements in worker education and training must occur to give workers the skills needed to fill those jobs.
“The jobs are there,” he said, noting that training and education will be a priority for his administration during next year’s legislative session.