By Raymund Lee Flandez
ANNAPOLIS – Returning teachers and road construction workers helped offset the exit of seasonal workers to drive Maryland’s unemployment rate down for the sixth straight month.
The state’s September unemployment rate fell .3-percentage points to 3.9 percent from 4.2 percent in August, state officials said Friday.
The latest available jobless figures are more than 1 percentage point under the national September unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, which fell from 5.7 percent in August.
Although there were fewer summer jobs this year, September set a record with about 2.8 million people employed, up more than 58,200 workers from last year’s period.
The new level occurred during a period normally known for a shrinking labor force, said Marco Merrick, spokesman for the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
“What happens in August and September is that it’s the end of summer work and people either go back to retirement or go back to school,” Merrick said.
More than 114,000 Marylanders who were looking for work were not able to secure jobs. But the figure is less than the 123,000 job seekers in August.
September’s unemployment rate was also .3-percentage points less than September 2001.
“Maryland continues to demonstrate economic stability as employment consistently exceeds previous levels each month and the state’s unemployment rate remains significantly lower than the national average,” said Gov. Parris Glendening in a statement. “This is yet another indication that Maryland’s economy is remaining fundamentally strong.”
In the state, jobless figures dropped in every county except Worcester, which operates an amusement-, hotel- and resort-driven economy through Ocean City, a summer tourist hot spot. More than half of the counties in the state also reported jobless rates below the statewide average.
Also helping to boost employment in the state was continued hiring in construction, retail trade and other services, such as business and technology, Merrick said.
“We’re very fortunate,” Merrick said. “Each month, the unemployment level in the state has been dropping.”
The jobless rate for the state declined each month since March, when it was 5.2 percent. Last year, the unemployment rate average held at about 4.1 percent, with March 2001 at 3.7 percent.