Unemployment rates dipped in D.C., Maryland and Virginia in November

December 20, 2013

Jobless rates fell in the District, Maryland and Virginia in November, according to a Labor Department report released Friday that gave mixed signals about how the region’s labor market is faring.

Unemployment in each jurisdiction appeared to drop for favorable reasons: The number of unemployed people decreased, and the size of the labor force increased or held steady. That indicates that the reason for the decline is probably not because people became discouraged and gave up looking for work.

James Bohnaker, an economist for Moody’s Analytics, said it is probably a reflection of the end of the 16-day government shutdown, which sidelined many workers in October. “I don’t think it really signals any major shift in the job market,” he said.

In the District, where the jobless rate slid to 8.6 percent last month, from 8.9 percent, the city lost 1,600 jobs between October and November. The District added 1,400 jobs in the professional services industry, but lost 1,700 positions in the federal government subsector. The District also shed jobs in the health services sector and in leisure and hospitality, industries that have been key sources of job growth throughout the region in recent years. Still, other sectors added a few hundred jobs.

In Virginia, 5,900 jobs were added as the jobless rate declined to 5.4 percent, from 5.6 percent. But the commonwealth added only 400 positions in professional services after losing nearly 10,000 jobs in that sector the previous month, a drop that economists say probably reflected the federal government shutdown. Virginia added 2,800 jobs in education and the health services sector and 2,700 jobs in government, though few of those came from the federal subcategory.

Maryland’s jobless rate fell to 6.4 percent in November, from 6.7 percent the previous month, as the state added 8,900 jobs. The greatest gains were in the professional services sector, which added 3,100 positions. The state also added 2,300 jobs in government and an additional 2,300 jobs in construction.

“I think that taking that all together really tells you that the past couple of months, nothing’s really happening as far as job growth goes,” Bohnaker said. “Really, the economy is not really going anywhere.”

The jobs report is derived from two surveys. One, known as the household survey, collects data on individual workers, including those who may have been furloughed and drawing unemployment benefits during the shutdown. The other, the establishment survey, collects data directly from businesses.

In November, the national unemployment rate edged down to 7 percent, its lowest level in five years. Jobless rates fell in 45 states and were unchanged in five. Nevada and Rhode Island each recorded an unemployment rate of 9 percent, the highest in the nation. North Dakota had the lowest rate: 2.6 percent.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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