The state's unemployment rate fell to 6% from 6.2% in May, as the number of unemployed people declined by nearly 8,000 to 151.967, according to the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.

The number of unemployed persons in Maryland is 16,300 fewer than in May 1992.

"The drop in the state's unemployment rate and the increasing work hours and wages for Marylanders are favorable signs that show that the state's economy continues to improve," said Mark L. Wasserman, the department's secretary.

The average working week in the state increased to 41.2 hours in May from 40.7 hours in April. The department in its report noted that an increase in the average work week is usually a precursor to future hiring.

In addition, payroll employment increased in May by 22,000 jobs, which the department attributed to seasonal job increases in retail trade and services.

While the employment picture in Maryland is looking better, those who are unemployed in the state and elsewhere may find their benefits diminished. Beginning July 11, individuals applying for federal emergency unemployment compensation benefits will be eligible for only up to 10 extra weeks of benefits, compared with 20 earlier.

Extended benefits are available only after claimants have exhausted 26 weeks of regular state unemployment benefits. The reduction in federal relief is due to a drop in the national two-month average seasonally adjusted total unemployment rate, which was 6.93% for May and June. When the two-month average falls under 7%, federal law requires a reduction in benefits to 10 weeks from 20.

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