Summer sparks July decline in Md. jobless

September 03, 1994|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Sun Staff Writer

Maryland's unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in July, as a sharp gain in jobs was fueled by a strong summer-job market.

The state's Department of Economic and Employment Development said the overall unemployment rate fell from 5.6 percent in June. But the seasonally adjusted rate, which eliminates summer job market fluctuations in businesses like tourism and construction, rose to 5.5 percent from 5.3 percent in June.

DEED Secretary Mark L. Wasserman hailed the report as a sign of economic strength, but economists and business people were less enthusiastic.

"The sixth consecutive month of employment growth, a drop in the unemployment rate, and other economic indicators showing improvement -- there's a strong signal in these numbers," he said.

Michael A. Conte, director of the regional economic studies program at the University of Baltimore, said the jobs news was more or less neutral.

"The employment data is not really that meaningful," he said.

"We don't see [the jobless rate] going much below 5 percent and we don't see it going much above 5.5," he added.

He said the more important news items were retail sales gains that outstripped nationwide performance and new car registration figures 14 percent higher than a year earlier. He was also pleased by a 1 percent drop in Baltimore City's unemployment rate, to 9.4 percent.

Less optimistic was Charles McMillion, an economics consultant in Washington who tracks Maryland's economy. He said unemployment fell on the strength of jobs held by Marylanders who work out of state, and that a survey of Maryland employers showed a 3,200-job decline for July.

"Only three states have had job growth slower than Maryland the last 12 months," he said.

DEED said the summer jobs surge was based on increases in such industries as hotels, construction and recreation, as well as gains in less seasonal businesses such as health services and trade organizations.

"We did have a very good summer here in Ocean City," said Paul Wall, vice president of Phillips Seafood Co.

Anne Madison, a spokeswoman for the Ryland Group Inc. of Columbia, said the company laid off mortgage counselors because higher interest rates have reduced loan refinancings.

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