The state's unemployment rate rose slightly in September, to 6.7% from 6.6% in August. Officials at the Maryland Economic and Employment Development Department attributed the rise to seasonal factors, such as cutbacks in amusements and restaurants.

Though employment fell by 48,977, to 2.5 million, the employment level is more than 25,000 above May's level, the department reported.

Nationally, the unemployment rate for September was 7.2%.

Mark L. Wasserman, the department's secretary, said the state economy is showing signs of improvement, such as an increase in housing permits. Permits in September increased by 39.3% over August totals.

However, retail sales remained sluggish, "reflecting low consumer confidence and a generally slow economy," the department said. Retail sales remained unchanged from July to August, but fell 6.1% from August 1991. August is the most recent month for which data are available.

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