BALTIMORE, Md.—After five months during which the Washington County unemployment rate either fell or remained unchanged, the trend has reversed, with the jobless rate rising to 8.5 percent in December, according to preliminary state figures released Friday.
In December, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation had reported a preliminary November jobless rate of 8.2 percent, but that has been adjusted downward to 8 percent, the new figures show.
The county’s latest jobless figure matched the national unemployment rate for December of 8.5 percent, but was higher than Maryland’s jobless rate of 6.7 percent for the month, the report said.
The state jobless rate was down from 6.9 percent in November.
“I think it is a classic example of more people entering the labor force before the holidays,” said Timothy Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.
“That generally happens every year at this time,” as retailers add jobs, and people seek to fill them, Troxell said.
The number of people working was almost unchanged, down by 25 to 60,840. However, the number of people listed as unemployed rose by 364 to 5,684, the report said.
The labor force, composed of those employed and seeking employment, was up by 339, the report said.
The county jobless rate was 9.8 percent in December 2010, according to state figures.
Despite the increase in December, “there is some good news in the numbers they put out,” Troxell said.
The average unemployment rate for 2011 was 9.5 percent, the lowest it has been since 2008 when it was 5.8 percent.
The average jobless rate was 10.3 percent for 2010 and 9.9 percent for 2009, according to state figures.
The increase in the jobless rate was greater in Hagerstown, which saw unemployment rise from 8.4 percent in November to 9.2 percent last month.
The labor force increased by 153 workers to 18,585, with 160 more people — 1,706 — listed as unemployed, the report said. The number of people employed fell by a statistically insignificant seven workers to 16,879.
Washington County ranked 20th in the state among 23 counties and Baltimore City. The lowest rate was 4.7 percent in Howard County, while Worcester County was the highest at 15.6 percent, the report said.