The number of jobs in Prince George's County grew this summer as local companies expanded. The county's unemployment rate in July was 4.6 percent, down from 4.9 percent a year earlier, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

The increasing number of jobs here reflects what's happening across the region. The local job market grew faster than any other part of the nation in July, adding 80,600 jobs. Maryland's labor force added 53,000 jobs that same month.

Kwasi G. Holman, president and chief executive of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corp., said he expects the county's unemployment rate to go down even further because four companies that do not now have offices in Prince George's plan to open operations in the county before the end of the year.

He has centered his first seven months leading the economic development corporation on meetings with the county's 200 largest employers to find out what their needs are. Many of the Prince George's businesses executives Holman met with this summer said they plan to add jobs, he said.

"We are continuing to visit the top 200 employers," Holman said. "Several of those companies are expanding, and in general they are pleased with the business climate in the county, the responsiveness of county officials, and are optimistic about employment in the county."

Some county businesses have shed workers recently. According to a state workforce report, two companies announced layoffs this summer, totaling 342 jobs. Grocery store chain Safeway Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., shed 78 positions when it closed a bakery in Lanham, according to company spokesman Greg TenEyck. Giant Food Inc. laid off 264 workers because of a corporate restructuring.

A third company, Bethesda-based defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., could lay off about 150 workers in a Lanham office that provides information technology services to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The workers' jobs depend on whether Lockheed can regain a 10-year, $860 million contract it has had with the agency.

Earlier this year Lockheed lost the contract to Texas-based computer systems manager Electronic Data Systems Corp. Lockheed is appealing the loss to the federal government's Government Accountability Office because of an error in the way the contract was awarded, said Lockheed spokesman Warren Wright.

According to Holman, companies that plan to bring jobs to Prince George's include Internosis, an information technology company that develops software and helps companies use Microsoft applications. The company is moving its offices from Arlington to Greenbelt, adding 250 jobs to county rolls over the next year and a half.

Government contractors include Systems Application and Technologies Inc. of Landover, which won a four-year multimillion dollar contract from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to perform background investigation services. The company also said it plans to increase its staff.

"The county is doing very well," said Thomas Himler, director of the Prince George's County Office of Management and Budget. "While you may have a couple of companies laying off workers, we're expanding elsewhere. The number of people in the labor force is probably the highest it's been in quite a few years."

The county's economy was also helped by rising property values and increasing incomes among residents, Himler said. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last month, the county's median income increased to $59,964 last year, from $58,457 in 2002. Prince George's now ranks 49th in the nation in median income, up from 53rd in 2002.

"That is a good indicator of how things are going," he said. "It's a combination of the increasing job base and that all the cards are kind of just aligning right. More and more businesses are coming here."