After five straight months of declining employment, Maryland gained 1,400 jobs in August, sparked by a big boost from teachers and other school employees returning to work, according to new federal figures.
But the numbers are preliminary and could be revised. Officials initially reported an 800-job gain for the state in July but recently flipped that to an 800-job loss.
All told, the public sector gained 3,900 jobs in the state last month, while the private sector shed 2,500.
Although state officials noted that the overall job gain was the first for the month of August since 2007 and the largest for the month since 2005, job creation still has been anemic in Maryland, an economist said. The state has added a net 24,000 jobs in the past year, a 0.9 percent gain, below the national average of a 1.4 percent rise.
“Maryland continues to make progress toward recovery,” Scott R. Jensen, the state’s interim labor secretary, said in a conference call with reporters.
But Maryland’s increase in jobs in the past year is “not a big change” compared with growth before the Great Recession, said Daraius Irani, director of the Regional Economic Studies Institute’s applied economics and human services group at Towson University. Concerns for the state include the federal government’s impending “fiscal cliff,” in which measures such as tax cuts passed under former President George W. Bush will expire and large across-the-board spending cuts will be triggered in January unless a divided Congress acts, he said.
Maryland is heavily reliant on federal jobs, which are being held hostage by inaction in Congress, Irani said.
“There probably won’t be much done about [the fiscal cliff] until after the November elections,” he said.
The state’s unemployment rate inched up to 7.1 percent in August from 7 percent in July, continuing a trend since February when the rate was 6.5 percent.
Local government jobs added 6,700 in August, about as much as that sector added in August 2011 when there was an overall job loss of 1,600. That primarily was due to teachers and other school staff returning, Jensen said.
Hotels and restaurants added 1,100 positions last month, while retail and professional services each added 700. Private education lost 2,300 jobs last month, while federal and state employers each shed more than 1,000 jobs. Manufacturing and construction showed little change.
Maryland has recovered almost 70 percent of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession of 2007-09 at a rate almost 50 percent faster than the nation, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said in a statement.
“Our economy is an innovation economy, and our greatest competitive assets are the talents, skills, creativity, ingenuity and education of our people,” O’Malley said.
The state is “simply not competing with our neighbors," Larry Hogan, chairman of Change Maryland, a group that opposes O’Malley’s policies, said in a statement. Since January 2007, jobs in Maryland have declined by 1.4 percent, the second-biggest drop in the region behind Delaware, he said.
But Virginia lost 12,400 jobs last month, according to the new federal data. Since January 2007, Virginia jobs are down 1.2 percent.
Mark Uncapher, Montgomery County Republican Party chairman, said in a statement that O’Malley’s “economic strategy of raising income taxes on individuals, at the same time he cuts taxes for gambling operators, is not working."