County’s Unemployment Rate Tops 11%

BERLIN – Shrinking “help wanted” columns in local newspapers and “closed for the winter” signs outside of businesses are normal for Worcester County in the fall, but no one expected to see Worcester’s unemployment rate hit 11.2 percent in November.

The November rate is 4 percentage points higher than the 7.2 percent unemployment rate posted in November 2007.

Nearly 3,000 Worcester County residents were out of work in November, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, totaling 2,932 unemployed of a 26,106-person workforce.

In 2008, the unemployment rate dropped steadily from an early high unemployment rate of 10.5 percent last January until September when it began trending upward again from the lowest rate of the year, August’s 4.2 percent. The rate jumped from 4.7 percent in September 2008 to 7.4 percent in October 2008.

Worcester’s average unemployment rate for the first 11 months of 2008 is 6.8 percent.

Unemployment statewide is less than half that of Worcester County, with preliminary November numbers at 5.1 percent.

The national unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent.

Historically Worcester County posts higher jobless rates than much of the rest of Maryland, but November numbers hover around seven or eight percent over the past few years.

“A high rate in Worcester County is pretty much a normal thing,” said Jim Wolfe of the Salisbury unemployment office. “We’re seeing a heck of a lot more [jobless claims] than we did.”

Jobs in northern Worcester County have dried up as usual over the holidays, said Fran Meyers, who until this week ran Ocean City Baptist Church’s free job match service.

In November, Meyers placed 29 people in jobs, but few since then.

“You don’t usually do anything until middle of January, the third week of January, and then you’ll get maybe a couple,” Meyers said.

The recession has caused more and earlier lay offs, according to local businesses.

The county’s November unemployment numbers are the first to truly reflect expected seasonal unemployment, as many businesses close down or reduce staff when the shoulder season winds down in October.

December unemployment numbers will not be available until later in January, but are expected to surpass the November rate.