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Signs of the recovery: unemployment rate falls in DC, Maryland, and Virginia

A woman stops to visit a booth at a local job fair. Unemployment rates have fallen in the DC area.
A woman stops to visit a booth at a local job fair. Unemployment rates have fallen in the DC area.
washingtonpost.com

     For the first time since the economic recession set in in 2008, the unemployment rate has fallen for the entire DC metropolitan area. The District, Maryland, and Virginia all experienced unexpected, but much appreciated, declines in the jobless rate.

     DC still has the highest unemployment rate in the area, at 11% in April. But that is down 0.5% from the rate in March, which may not seem like a monumental shift to the average reader but economists insist is a dramatic change. In fact, it was the second-best drop in the entire country, just behind South Carolina's decline of 0.6%
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     Economists have also argued that this drop represents a true increase in employment and is not just a mirage like the one the area experienced in 2009. That year, a brief job in the unemployment artificially inflated hopes in a swifter recovery, but the plunge came because unemployed people quit looking for work rather than actually landing a job, causing the rate to briefly trend downward.

     Maryland's unemployment rate dropped to 7.5%, down from 7.7%, and Virginia's declined by 0.1% to reach a regional-best of 7.2%.

     "Things certainly are headed in the right direction," said Eric M. Seleznow, executive director of the Maryland Governor's Workforce Investment Board.

     The federal government added 2,300 jobs to the District of Columbia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Leisure and Hospitality sector added another 1,800. The state of Maryland gained 12,794 positions, also largely in the Leisure and Hospitality sector.

     But neither of those figures can compete with Virginia, which added 14,100 jobs in its northern counties alone. Overall, the state saw an increase of over 28,000 new positions in April.

     The growth in jobs in the Mid-Atlantic stands in contrast to the national trend, where the US unemployment rate rose  to 9.9% in April. Michigan has the nation's highest unemployment rate, at 14%, and South Dakota the lowest at 3.8%.

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