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Maryland Unemployment Numbers Show Slight Improvement

The unemployment figure for Montgomery County remains one of the best in the state.

Maryland’s unemployment rate showed improvement in October, falling from 7.4 percent to 7.2 percent, the state’s top labor official announced this week.

Alexander Sanchez, secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said the state added a total of 3,100 jobs during the month, leaving about 217,000 state residents still unemployed.

“There is a lot of good news in this report. But, we are still in a recovery from the worst national recession since the Great Depression,” Sanchez said.

Separately, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that unemployment levels remain steady in Montgomery County at the relatively low rate of 5.5 percent. The county jobless rate is unchanged over the last year, and remains among the best in the state, according to Bureau figures.

"This is good news," said Steven A. Silverman, director of the Department of Economic Development for Montgomery County.

"In Montgomery County, a normal unemployment rate is under 3 percent, so we are looking to get back to that. ... I think we are moving in the right direction," Silverman added.

“Montgomery County continues to be one of the engines of the state economy. ... An unemployment rate of 5.5 percent would be considered good anywhere in the world, especially during this recession,” commented Neil L. Bergsman, director of the Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute.

“But the statewide story on unemployment remains one of stagnation. The latest improvement in the numbers [is] nice, but the numbers are small and there really isn’t much sign that we are moving strongly in the right direction,” he said.

Bergsman estimated that Maryland’s unemployment rate is really closer to 12 percent, because the official figures do not include “discouraged” workers who are no longer actively seeking new jobs, and “underemployed” workers who have accepted part-time employment while looking for better jobs.

Sanchez added that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley intends to introduce a new jobs bill to the state legislature as early as Jan. 15, 2012.

The bill will likely include measures for highway and infrastructure spending, tax incentives for new hiring, and some regulatory changes designed to spur employment growth, officials said.

“This will be at the top of the agenda in January,” when the Maryland legislature convenes for a new session, Sanchez said.

In related news, Sanchez’ agency announced Tuesday that retailer Filene’s Basement-Syms Clothing would eliminate 37 jobs at its Rockville location, and another 31 jobs at its location in Baltimore. The store's Friendship Heights location (on the Maryland-Washington, DC, border) is .

The company filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on Nov. 2, announcing it would close all of its stores in eight states and the District of Columbia. A total of some 2,500 jobs are to be eliminated.

In other corporate layoff news, labor department spokesman Mike Raia told Patch that the agency is still waiting for some communication from Bank of America about that company’s plans for its Maryland employees.

In mid-September, Bank of America confirmed reports that it would , but refused to provide any details on how the cuts would affect Maryland workers.

With some 4,000 employees in Maryland, some cuts are expected locally, including at the bank’s Mid-Atlantic regional headquarters in Rockville.

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