A Bird Called Recovery

January 26, 1993

Be poised for the recovery, we are told; so you sit waiting, watching, as if it will appear high in the sky, landing gears out, like the space shuttle gliding over a desert runaway. And while you're waiting, you catch a glimpse of a festive presidential inaugural on the television and notice that your governor is talking again about risk-taking, like the old days, and you look up to the sky anticipating that landing. And then you hear snippets of news from the infant year and you wonder if this bird called Recovery is ever coming down.

* B. Green & Co., a 77-year-old wholesale grocer that is one of Maryland's largest private companies, sold its wholesale division to a Richmond firm. Up to 400 well-paying blue collar and office jobs will leave the region.

* The expected loss of a multi-billion dollar defense contract threatens 500 additional white collar jobs at Westinghouse Electric Corp., at its Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Hunt Valley installations. About 4,000 people have lost work at the defense contractor in the past two years, enough people to incorporate as the seventh largest town in Maryland.

* USF&G just laid off 110 employees in information services as part of a corporate restructuring.

The job news will continue to be somewhat downbeat even as Maryland's economy does begin to rebound. Consolidations and restructurings will continue to take a toll on workers, and companies won't begin hiring anew before business is solid enough to support it. Other indicators will improve ahead of job growth, such as initial unemployment claims, which are down about 20 percent from a year ago.

Compounding the pain, Maryland is going through a metamorphosis over the type of economy it wants to have; the shift from a market heavy on manufacturing and construction to one more dependent on service and high-tech industries.

Dr. Mahlon R. Straszheim, of the University of Maryland economics department, predicts that we haven't seen the end of the major job loss announcements: The consolidation of the banking industry will be felt in the city this year and surplus in commercial real estate will dampen job growth in that vital sector. But the College Park economist does agree with Schaefer administration officials that recent leading indicators have been more positive, even if the continuing layout announcements won't make anyone feel that the "crash and burn" days of 1992 are behind us.

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