Wednesday, July 9, 2008

As the jobless rate increases, state still seeing net job gain

Increases seen in health services

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Maryland’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate ballooned in May to 4.0 percent from 3.5 percent in May 2007 — the largest year-over-year increase in 2008, according to recently released U.S. Department of Labor figures.

In January and February, the state’s jobless rate declined slightly from a year ago, while it inched up only one-tenth of a percentage point in March and April from 2007.

But the state is still seeing job growth, as Maryland has added about 6,500 jobs since January, including 1,100 in May. Meanwhile, businesses across the nation have shed more than 300,000 jobs in 2008, and the national unemployment rate shot up to 5.5 percent in May from 4.5 percent a year ago.

Maryland was one of only 10 states that saw positive job growth in the past year, Thomas E. Perez, state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation secretary, said in a statement.

‘‘Still, Maryland’s economy is not immune to the financial stresses caused by the credit crisis and rising energy and food costs, and we are seeing the effects of those factors,” Perez said.

Job gains in Maryland in May were seen in health services, while losses mounted in the construction, manufacturing and finance sectors. Among the businesses that have added jobs this year are cable company Comcast Corp., which recently opened a 500-employee call center in Largo.

Europ to bring 175 jobs to Bethesda from D.C.

Several companies have recently moved, or are moving, to Maryland.

Europ Assistance USA, part of the multinational Europ Assistance Group that provides travel services such as roadside assistance claims management, identity theft resolution and medical referrals, is shifting its headquarters to Bethesda from Washington, D.C., this month, spokeswoman Jessica Ashley said. The company will move 175 jobs and have room in its 33,518-square-foot space to grow more, she said.

‘‘The headquarters have been in Washington, D.C., for about 25 years, and we were looking for more space,” Ashley said. ‘‘This is all on one floor, which we like.”

Europ has not received grants or other public assistance for the move but is exploring that, she said.

Aguru Images, a provider of high-resolution commercial digital imaging hardware and software, also relocated its headquarters to Maryland, moving to Rockville from Alexandria, Va. The 2-year-old company recently received a $100,000 investment from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development through the Challenge Investment Program, which assists small technology companies.

Besides Europ, Montgomery County economic development officials have worked recently to help the Wolpoff & Abramson law firm in Rockville and Silver Spring broadcasting company TV One expand. However, TV One could be moving to Washington along with one of its founders, Lanham broadcasting company Radio One, according to recent reports.

But David Wood, a business development specialist with the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, said officials plan to speak with TV One executives about remaining in the county. ‘‘We want to do everything we can to keep them in Silver Spring,” he said.

Layoffs in Elkridge,Greenbelt and Baltimore

However, several companies plan layoffs. Retailer Best Buy is laying off 103 employees at its electronics repair service center in Elkridge by Aug. 1, with some of the work being moved to facilities in New Jersey and Chicago.

Several of the notices recently filed with the state involve layoffs in Prince George’s County. Those include 61 employees in Greenbelt by Falls Church, Va., tech company Computer Sciences Corp.

And on June 26, The (Baltimore) Sun reported that it will slash some 100 jobs through buyouts and layoffs, with most in its newsroom. It’s the newspaper’s second recent round of job cuts, as it and other Tribune papers continue to struggle under new owner Sam Zell.

This report originally appeared in The Business Gazette.