Maryland job creation now outpacing Virginia, North Carolina -- Gazette.Net







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Just a month ago, Maryland’s job creation numbers looked bleak, showing the state with the second-highest percentage job loss in the nation in the previous 12 months.

But that has turned around in almost the blink of an eye. July saw a net gain of 8,100 jobs. Federal officials last week also revised June’s numbers upward by about 5,000 jobs, turning their preliminary estimate of a 300-job loss into a significant gain. Maryland now is back to seeing job growth in the past 12 months, ranking closer to the middle of the national pack with a 0.1 percent gain. Since January, the state has added a net 13,900 jobs.

Furthermore, all of last month’s net growth was in Maryland’s private sector, as government slashed jobs.

Meanwhile, key regional competitors Virginia and North Carolina lost jobs for the third consecutive month in July and have added only a net 100 and 6,200 positions, respectively, since January.

The revisions are encouraging for the state and show labor researchers are trying hard to get accurate data, Maryland Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez said in a conference call.

“For the second straight month, our job data was revised upward by a significant margin,” Sanchez said.

The private sector added 10,400 jobs in Maryland last month, while government agencies shed 2,300 positions, the U.S. Labor Department reported. The state was in the top 10 nationally in private-sector job growth last month, state officials said.

July actually was the first month this year that broke a string of alternating monthly job gains and losses. Hotels and restaurants led the gains in the state last month, adding 3,200 positions. Other substantial gains were seen in administrative, 1,900; retail, 1,300; construction, 1,000; and scientific and technical, 900.

Like most sectors, retail jobs have been up and down in the past year, and are up about 500 from a year ago. Retailers are waiting to see how the economy and consumer confidence track before committing to significant hiring, said Patrick Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association.

“Last week was so critical,” Donoho said of the sales tax-free week. “The tax-free week really jump-started our holiday season last year … In this economy, it’s hard to predict how it will go.”

Among the recent job creators is Wegmans, which opened opened a 500-employee grocery in Frederick in June and plans to open a 600-employee store in Bel Air on Sept. 18. Kohl’s is opening a distribution facility in Harford County with as many as 1,200 employees.

But on the other hand, the health care sector, which has added 4,000 jobs in the past year, shed 1,400 positions last month. Sanchez speculated the drop was related to federal budget cuts. The state government lost 1,500 jobs last month.

The Pentagon’s base realignment program has started to add jobs at Fort Meade, Aberdeen Proving Ground and other bases. But federal contractors such as Lockheed Martin of Bethesda have cut staffs in response to leaner budgets expected in the near future. The number of federal jobs in Maryland last month was 140,100, down almost 2,000 from a year ago and more than 3,000 from two years ago.

Maryland is affected by changes in federal hiring more than most states, Sanchez said.

“We have to look at this situation seriously more than any other state,” he said.

Nationally, some 117,000 jobs were created in July. But the nation needs to create about 400,000 jobs per month to substantially bring down unemployment, Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, said in a report. He advocated cutting the trade deficit in half through domestic energy development and conservation efforts and offsetting Chinese exchange rate subsidies through a tax on dollar-yuan conversions.

“Americans are spending again, but too many dollars go abroad to purchase Middle East oil and Chinese consumer goods that do not return to buy U.S. exports,” Morici said. “This leaves U.S. businesses with too little demand to justify new investments and hiring.”

Despite the job gains in the state, Maryland’s residential unemployment rate climbed to 7.2 percent last month from 7 percent in June, but still was well below the national rate of 9.1 percent in July. One reason is jobs and unemployment reports don’t measure the same phenomena, Sanchez noted. The jobs report tracks positions by employers within the state, while the household employment report looks at residential employment, and Marylanders could work in Washington, D.C., or another state.

“We’re in a regional economy, and folks can come over the border to live or to work, and do so fairly frequently,” Sanchez said.