(June 26, 2020) April was not a good month for Worcester County workers. It even might have been one of the worst in several decades, according to unemployment statistics compiled by the state.

Worcester County’s unemployment rate for April was at 22.8 percent, while it was only at 9.4 percent in March. Kathryn Gordon, Worcester County economic development director, said that Worcester’s unemployment rate is usually around eight percent in April. 

Unemployment rates across the country have skyrocketed as businesses temporarily, and in some cases, permanently, closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Worcester has the highest unemployment rate of all Maryland counties, which Gordon said is a result of its seasonal nature. 

“A lot of our businesses that are open for the summer are just getting ready, opening up, getting everything straight,” Gordon said.

Although Worcester has the highest rate, other county rates have increased much more, with some tripling.

“As much as we don’t like our unemployment rate, it would seem that it’s a little bit of a benefit of ours that many of the businesses had not opened yet, so therefore they weren’t laying off any employees; they just had to delay the hiring of employees,” Gordon said. 

As for the state as a whole, Maryland had an unemployment rate of 9.8 percent in April and 9.7 percent in May, about three times the normal rate. The rates for May have not yet been broken down by individual counties, but Gordon said it’s likely that Worcester’s unemployment has decreased. 

She attributes this to the recent re-openings for indoor dining at restaurants, casinos, malls and amusement parks. 

“With re-opening and having a larger capacity for customers to come in, it does need to have additional employees,” Gordon said. “I would think that our unemployment rate would decrease. How much of course, we don’t know.” 

She sees Worcester’s economy slowly but surely making a comeback. Most of this started when the travel restrictions were lifted and the Ocean City Boardwalk and beach opened to visitors. 

“A lot of our visitors that come every year with their families are still coming,” Gordon said. “They may have delayed a little bit, but they’re coming. They’re still supporting our businesses, they’re still going out to eat or shopping in our stores.” 

Gordon said it’s difficult to predict how long Worcester’s economy will feel the effects of the pandemic. 

“It really does depend on the continuing of the decreases of the hospitalizations and decreases in the positive cases that are happening, whether or not a second wave would come,” Gordon said. “I know that Worcester County, all the businesses that are here, are doing their part in making sure that they are implementing best practices to keep the physical distancing of their customers.” 

She added that visitors and residents are also doing their best to mitigate a spike in cases or a second wave. 

“Our community is very supportive of our businesses here and want to get back to some semblance of normal,” Gordon said. “We’re all doing our part to make sure that we can get there.”

Elizabeth covers Worcester County issues for Ocean City Today. In 2018, she graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with a bachelor of arts. After graduation, Elizabeth spent a year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Wilmington, Delaware.

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