Unemployment data released by the Labor Department on Friday offer a mixed snapshot of how the Washington region’s economic recovery is faring, with jobless rates ticking up in the District, holding steady in Maryland and dipping in Virginia.
The District’s unemployment rate rose for the first time since June 2011, creeping from 8.4 percent in November to 8.5 percent in December. But the District still managed to add 1,800 net jobs, a sign that the rate increase was likely because more people entered the workforce.
James Bohnaker, associate economist for Moody’s Analytics, said the labor force is increasing in the District as its population continues to surge and as residents begin looking for work again.
And despite the latest increase, Bohnaker said, the District’s jobless rate has been on a favorable trajectory for more than a year.
“You’re seeing the gap between D.C.’s unemployment rate and the U.S. narrowing pretty significantly,” he said.
In Maryland, unemployment remained unchanged at 6.6 percent. After losing 1,500 jobs in November, the state added 4,900 jobs in December. The 2,300 jobs added in the leisure and hospitality sector and the 2,100 jobs added in professional services helped offset a decline of 2,800 positions in government.
“Maryland had that really bad period in the middle of the year, where it looked like it was going back into recession,” Bohnaker said.
But this data and other unemployment reports from the last half of the year provide encouragement that the state is not backpedaling.
Virginia saw its rate decline from 5.6 to 5.5 percent, even as it shed 5,000 net jobs. The biggest losses came from the trade and transportation sector; 5,400 of the 6,200 jobs lost in that category came from the retail industry.
Scott Hoyt, a senior director at Moody’s Analytics, cautioned against reading too much into the steep drop.
“Some of the holiday hiring came early this year because of the early Thanksgiving,” Hoyt said.
The commonwealth’s greatest job gains came from the leisure and hospitality industry, which added 5,200 jobs, and the education and health services sector, which added 3,500 jobs.
Unemployment rates fell in 22 states and rose in 16. Rates remained the same in 12 states.
The highest unemployment was recorded in Nevada and Rhode Island, where the rate was 10.2 percent. North Dakota had the lowest rate: 3.2 percent.