Baltimore indexes up while state's are down

CROSSED SIGNALS

October 08, 1990|By David Conn

There were mixed economic signals from Baltimore and Maryland last week: good news in the city, bad in the state.

The University of Baltimore's index of leading economic indicators showed a continued decline for Maryland, with a 0.30 percent drop from May to June. But the Baltimore metropolitan ** area's index rose 0.23 percent over the same period.

Economists use leading indicators to predict economic activity six to eight months in the future. The Maryland index has declined in each of the last five months and six of the last seven.

The Baltimore-area index rose for the second month in a row, after three monthly decreases.

The United States index, which is more up-to-date, suffered a 1.20 percent decline in August after two months of no change.

Instead, the Maryland index dropped off because of a 4.5 percent rise in initial jobless claims, a nearly 23 percent decrease in homebuilding permits and a 15.7 percent decline in new auto registrations.

The main difference between the Baltimore and Maryland numbers is that the city's index includes a help-wanted advertising component. In June, help-wanted ads were up 14.66 percent in Baltimore, "which is highly encouraging for the metro area," Mr. Conte said.

The length of the manufacturing workweek was down slightly in the city, but up a bit in Maryland. Although an increase in manufacturing hours might seem to be a good sign for the state's economy, it could be a negative indicator, Mr. Conte said.

"Analysts are interpreting the recent increases in U.S. manufacturing hours as a negative sign," Mr. Conte said, "because they mean that employers are laying people off and working remaining employees harder."

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