Maryland's unemployment rate dropped to 6.4% in October from 6.7% in September, the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development reported.

Mark L. Wasserman, the department's secretary, said the development was "a strong indicator that Maryland's economy is gradually recovering" and said the drop "could be the shot in the arm we need to generate healthy retail sales" during the holiday season.

Through September, retail sales increased 6.3% from September 1991. Those are the latest figures available.

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