Mild January balm for Maryland job growth -- Gazette.Net







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Maryland added jobs in January for the fifth consecutive month, with nearly all of the seasonally adjusted gain of 5,000 in the private sector, according to federal figures released Tuesday.

The state has added almost 40,000 jobs in the past 12 months, the most since 2005. Maryland’s 1.6 percent job gain in 2011 was bigger than Virginia’s 1.1 percent increase and slightly higher than the national average of 1.5 percent.

Maryland’s unemployment rate also hit a three-year low of 6.5 percent in January, down from a revised 6.6 percent in December.

The news is a sign that “investments in workforce training and education are continuing to pay off,” Maryland Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez said in a statement.

The construction industry in particular saw a boost in January, adding 3,000 more jobs. That segment has grown by almost 5,000 workers in the past year, although the total of almost 150,000 is still more than 40,000 below the level of five years ago.

A key factor in January’s boost in construction jobs was the relatively mild weather, especially compared with a year ago, said Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America. Some 35 states and Washington, D.C., added construction jobs in January.

“There is accumulating evidence that construction has passed its low point,” Simonson said.

The retail and transportation sectors also experienced a significant increase in Maryland, with a combined gain of 1,700 jobs in January.

States looking to further spur economic growth should invest more heavily in infrastructure, such as transportation networks, schools and broadband, and avoid public budget cuts, Doug Hall, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., said in a report.

The Maryland legislature is considering legislation proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley that would raise $613 million annually for transportation infrastructure with a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, phased in over three years.