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State unemployment is down, but so is labor force size

The number of jobs in Maryland increased by 9,300 jobs in April, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation announced Friday, and unemployment dropped to 5.5 percent.

Good news right? Yes, but there’s more to the story.

A closer look at the numbers shows that Maryland’s labor force also shrank by more than 6,100 jobs in April. That means that while 9,300 people found themselves newly employed, another 6,100 chose to stop looking for a job.

When adjusted for seasonal changes, that became a small increase. However, year-over-year data shows a shrinking labor force over time.

From April 2013 to April 2014, unemployment in Maryland dropped from 6.7 percent in April 2013 to 5.5 percent last month. During that time, Maryland’s labor force decreased by about 28,000 people, a little less than one percent.

That proportion is similar to that of Washington for the year. Virginia, however, managed to both grow its labor force by more than 77,000 (nearly a 2 percent increase) and shrink its unemployment rate down to 4.9 percent.

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