After four straight months of declining employment, Maryland reported an 800-job gain for July, according to federal figures released Friday.
State officials noted that Maryland is still about 23,000 jobs ahead from a year ago. But the state has lost about 16,000 positions since February, while nationally more than 500,000 jobs were created in the same period.
In addition, Maryland’s unemployment rate continued to rise, hitting 7.0 percent in July from 6.9 percent in June and 6.5 percent in February. Nationally, the jobless rate inched up from 8.2 percent in June to 8.3 percent in July, the same as in February.
Job gains last month were particularly seen in hotels and restaurants, up 2,500 positions; administrative, up 1,500; and professional and technical services, up 1,400. Real estate was down by 2,200, while retail dropped by 1,500.
The drop in retail could be related to stores cutting back on employees last month after weak national sales in June, said Patrick Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association. June retail sales, excluding vehicles, gas stations and restaurants, declined a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent that month from May, according to the National Retail Federation. A U.S. Commerce Department report put the decline at 0.5 percent. But retail sales rebounded in July by 0.8 percent from June, according to both new Commerce Department data and the retail trade group.
“Sales were not where we wanted them to be in June,” Donoho said. “The year started wonderfully, then fell off a cliff in April.”
Another industry that has especially shed jobs in recent months is construction, which has lost almost 7,000 jobs in Maryland since February. July’s loss was a relatively small 700.
Government construction cuts in particular are taking their toll on employment in the industry, said Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America.
Federal employment dropped 700 in July but was down only by 300 since February and up by almost 2,000 in the past year. Manufacturing in Maryland has been fairly steady, holding about the same positions since February.
Investments in work force training and education are paying off, Scott R. Jensen, Maryland’s interim labor secretary, said in a conference call with reporters Friday. Since July 2011, about 18,000 more Marylanders have joined the work force, he said.
Among nearby states, Virginia gained 21,300 jobs last month, while Pennsylvania lost 3,100 positions. Washington, D.C., and North Carolina added jobs in July, as Delaware and West Virginia lost some.